August 08, 2020 at 04:45 pm
Joel E. Zurbano
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Saturday urged the government to increase its support for small and medium-sized private universities as these transition to flexible learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a Senate hearing, Gatchalian said smaller institutions have limited financial capacity and technical expertise to install online and flexible learning systems.
Without the systems and expertise to implement remote learning, the students of these small schools would eventually suffer, he said.
According to Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairman Prospero De Vera III, there are more than 1,000 small private universities catering to around 525,000 students nationwide.
The CHED chairman added there are more students enrolled in private higher education institutions (HEIs) compared to public tertiary institutions.
Based on CHED data, there are 1,833,170 students (53.87 percent) enrolled in private HEIs while 1,575,645 (46.22 percent) are enrolled in public institutions.
"I found out that an online system is very expensive. It's not cheap," Gatchalian said during the hearing, citing the experience of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela, which recently subscribed to an application to deliver full online learning.
"Smaller universities may have a difficult time in acquiring an online system. My fear is if we don't help the small, medium private universities and more than 50 percent of the population in our universities will be affected," he added.
Under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Senate Bill No. 1564) or Bayanihan 2.0, at least P3 billion will be allocated to create "smart" campuses in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
This entails investments in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, acquisition of learning management systems, and other equipment to implement flexible learning.
CHED, however, seeks to expand the coverage of this budget so that small private universities will also be covered.