Siao proposes voucher, bond for higher education

Rep. Frederick Siao.

LONE District of Iligan City Rep. Frederick W. Siao has proposed that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) fund or subsidize the higher education in private schools of students who cannot be accommodated in state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Siao also proposed that CHED create a Learner Information System (LIS) that would dovetail with the LIS of the Department of Education (DepEd) and issue education bonds to raise funds for the upgrading of infrastructure and service facilities of SUCs.

“As CHED embarks on fully implementing the free college education in SUCs law, I now ask CHED OIC Prospero de Vera and his fellow Commissioners, to consider and study the establishment of a higher education version of the current DepEd senior high school voucher system,” said Siao in a press statement.

With the SUCs limited admission capacity, CHED can still be able to give other Filipino youths access to free or at least significantly state-subsidized education by providing its version of the DepEd’s Electronic Student Vouchers that allows senior high school students in public schools to enroll in private high schools.

“We could use the same voucher system and processes the DepEd uses or we can build a similar or even better system which colleges and universities can have access to,” said Siao.

There are already precedents for a voucher system for higher education namely the Education Service Contracting system (ESC) and the Government Assistance to Private Education (GASTPE), according to Siao.

He said these systems can be updated, upgraded or overhauled as needed and CHED can draft a law to this effect.

Siao said that with the CHED LIS needed for the Philippine Qualifications Framework database, extending the DepEd LIS to the CHED and TESDA is a logical progression.

“A key element of the DepEd LIS is the LRN or learner reference number, which is simply put, the student number of every student in the basic education system. I believe those students should carry that same reference number when they move on to technical schools, colleges, and universities. That LRN can be attached to the student number the tertiary schools give to their students. This way, the CHED LIS can keep track of all students. This is needed for the PQF,” said Siao.

“The challenge now to the CHED is to extend that LIS and the LRNs to the higher education system. I assume this will need a budget, so I expect CHED to submit a multi-year budget for this. The CHED can also seek foreign grants for it, to lessen the load on the future years’ GAA,” Siao said.

Meanwhile, many SUCs have very old buildings and facilities but since the GAA cannot support requests for capital outlays, the appropriate solution is the issuance of education bonds, according to Siao.

“We must modernize the facilities of our SUCs so that we can generate even deeper economic development, particularly in the countryside,” he said.

Siao said the CHED must work with the Department of Finance (DOF), which is in-charge of all matters on the issuance of government bonds and convene an SUCs capital outlays summit to work out the major details of the proposal to be submitted to the DOF.

p: wjg