January 25, 2017
ANGARA: "FREE COLLEGE ACT" CAN BE LIFE-CHANGING
"No one can argue the positive life-changing impact of a good education on an individual's life."
This was expressed by long-time education advocate Sen. Sonny Angara, co-author of Senate Bill Number 1304 under Committee Report No. 28, or the "Free Higher Education Act."
"It is a terrible thing to witness Filipinos capable of achieving but don't ever get to develop their potential just because they don't have access to formal learning," he lamented.
According to the Senate education committee vice chair, free public college tuition could provide "the impetus and the incentive to develop the human capital needed to the country to progress."
"This should be the first installment," Angara explained. "By enacting this measure alone, our work is still not finished. An entire reform package, as bold as this one, must follow on how to democratize access to college."
The senator, who chaired the Committee on Higher and Technical Education in the House of Representatives when he was representing the lone district of Aurora, mentioned some of the "college affordability measures" he filed such as the Student Fare Discount Act (Senate Bill No. 945) and the Underprivileged Students' Discount Act (Senate Bill No. 134).
"Students are not only hobbled by tuition, but also by other so-called miscellaneous fees. We also need reforms that raise the quality our state colleges," the lawmaker said. "Making public college affordable is just one of the concerns.
The other bigger challenge, Angara exclaimed, is how to raise the quality of instruction, and improve their facilities, especially on research.
"Of course we do not only want our education system to be widely accessible. We also want it to be top-notch, responsive and relevant," he stressed.
Angara said upgrading Philippine schools will always remain "a work in progress."
He cited the measure making SUCs tuition-free as "the latest in the long line of upgrades, beginning with the Free High School Act of 1988, the GASTPE Law, Universal Kindergarten Education Act, Early Years Act and recently the K-to-12 Law."
But Angara emphasized the educational system must be attuned "to this age of the millennials, borderless world and rapid-changing technology."
"Education must lead to employment. Today, there is a disconnect between what you have learned and its potential for you to earn," he said. "This should be agenda number one of SUCs: to churn out employable, productive and trained professionals."
It can be recalled that the senator's father, former Senate President Edgardo J Angara, himself a very popular education advocate, authored some landmark education bills in the Senate such as the "Free High School Act," "Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE), and the law creating the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
"Upgrading the standards of our schools will always be my priority because the work of improving the knowledge base and critical thinking capacity of the next generation should never end," Angara added.
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