The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) welcomed the proposals to review the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA) or the Free Higher Education program but raised concerns about the push to subject beneficiaries to a national entrance examination.
“I welcome the opportunity to review Free Higher Ed,” CHED Chairman Popoy De Vera said in a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon public briefing on Monday, Sept. 18.
De Vera noted that in 2022, he asked the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM 2) to make the implementation of the UAQTEA “one of the centerpiece programs” to be evaluated.
EDCOM 2 is the Congressional body created through Republic Act 11899, tasked to undertake a comprehensive national assessment and evaluation of the performance of the Philippine education sector.
Over the next three years, EDCOM 2 will recommend legislation that aims to address the education crisis in the country.
De Vera said that the UAQTEA already needed a review since it is in its sixth year of implementation.
“There is enough data on the ground to now make policy decision so I welcome it,” De Vera said.
National exams ‘not needed’
While CHED welcomed the review, De Vera maintained that there is probably no need for a national entrance test for the beneficiaries of the free college program.
“Yung idea na parang kailangan ng entrance test para sa lahat na yung makakapasa ay yun lang ang papasok, lahat naman ng ating public universities may entrance or admission tests na (The idea that it seems like an entrance test is needed for everyone, where only those who pass will be admitted, [but] all of our public universities have entrance or admission tests anyway),” De Vera said.
He pointed out the “problem” wherein only a few students are accepted to public universities due to the school's limited capacity.
“Ang problema, kakaunti na yung nakakapasok sa capacity nung school. Bakit ka magbibigay ng isa pang entrance test? (The problem is, only a few are able to get in due to the school's limited capacity. Why would you give another entrance test?),” he asked.
De Vera, on the other hand, expressed openness to administer entrance tests for a different purpose: to measure equity and identify the underprivileged students, those from public schools, children of rebel returnees, and children of indigenous people.
“Kung iyan data na iyan ay makukuha sa pamamagitan ng eksamen, okay ako diyan para gamitin ng mga school para paramihin yung mga makakapasok na galing sa marginalized sector (If that data can be obtained through an exam, I'm okay with it being used by schools to increase the number of students from marginalized sectors who can enroll),” he added.