Long UPCAT Lines mean more are entering school

The long lines at state colleges and universities for those wishing to enter them tell us that more people are now considering sending their children for higher learning, since they will have more money available to send them through college in case they enter a state university or college.

Recently passed laws mandate that education in such schools is free. Additional programs to spur enrolment in technical and vocational courses are also in the offing. What used to be spent on tuition can now be allocated for other school related expenses.

All these new programs allow us to keep our kids in school. To let them learn. At the same time, this helps guarantee that those deserving of higher learning to help them get the education they need to succeed.

From a larger perspective,  this sharpens the skills of our large, young population , that we are often told constitute a demographic dividend that will propel our continued economic growth. Whether they find work abroad, or fill local employment vacancies, the earning potential of our people helps build the economy. The issue here is to make sure that they are trained and capable to be productive members of the workforce. These new programs and free education are a good start.

The remaining problem is access. Data from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) show that there are 233 public universities against 1,673 private tertiary educational institutions. Of this number, there are 1,385,458 enrollees in state colleges, while there are 1,596,345 enrollees in private colleges and universities.

This means that over the next four years or so, only 1.3 million slots are available for the deserving college enrollees. There is a need to increase the number of facilities, and therefore, slots especially in the far flung regions.

Nonetheless, even if no new colleges open, new government programs under TESDA and the K-12 program already allow higher forms of learning that can mean gainful employment for our Senior High School graduates. For this, the challenge remaining is, like colleges,  for more senior high schools to be available in remote areas, and for these schools to be equipped and capable to train their students

This only means that there is less reason for kids not to be in school to learn skills needed to join the workforce. The challenge now is access for more, in areas where the facilities and institutions are still not present.

The hope is that the new education budget is reported to be the highest in history, and we expect more of these to built alongside new roads and bridges. A bigger hope lies in a capable Education Secretary in the person of Leonor Briones, who is known not only for her capabilities as an administrator, but for the credibility she brings in sustaining reforms meant to achieve results.