Sen. Pia Cayetano, chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, and Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo both agree: research is one of the main reasons why Philippine colleges and universities have gone down in international rankings.
In 2013, only four Philippine universities were included in the top 800 of the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings. They are the University of the Philippines, No. 380; Ateneo de Manila University, No. 501 down to 550; De La Salle University, No. 601 to down to 650, and University of Sto. Tomas, No. 701. (Among Asean countries, Singapore has the highest ranked universities with University of Singapore at No. 24, and Nanyang Technological University at No. 42.)
Research is indeed one weak link in our college educational system. Meaningful research is seldom undertaken in colleges. Once, former Sen. Edgardo J. Angara was flabbergasted to learn that 17 state universities and colleges were undertaking research on jepthropha with funds from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Worse, the results or findings of the few meaningful researches gather cobwebs in some obscure archives and are seldom given due recognition.
Senator Pia and Rep. Romulo, however, are not too worried over the lower ranking of Philippine universities by QS because of limited research work.
“This doesn’t mean that we are not very efficient in teaching,” Senator Pia stressed.
She said that with the low budget for education, funding for research will continue to be lean. She’s not too optimistic on the appropriation of adequate funds for education “as long as we have a high birth rate.” She’s the main author and sponsor of the Reproductive Health law whose implementation has just been okayed by the Supreme Court.
Romulo said that the lower ranking of Philippine universities isn’t reflective of the quality of education in the country. He blamed the criteria used by QS as the reason why leading Philippine universities had lower rankings lately. He noted that many foreigners, mainly Koreans, still come to the country to study.
“English is still our main edge,” he maintained.
To be sure, QS World University Rankings has not been received enthusiastically by tertiary schools in the Philippines. The Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila once said the criteria did not apply to the unique landscape of each participating universities, and that such rankings said nothing or very little about whether students were actually learning at particular colleges or universities.
Both UP and UST had also questioned the criteria and methodology used in the ranking. There was also a report that UP was asked it to advertise at the THE-QS website for $48,930.
Romulo seems to believe that the performance of colleges in professional regulatory examinations is the best advertisement for schools. He has been giving a list of top universities with a passing average of at least 80 percent in the last two tests administered by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC).
The latest in his list were: for Pharmacy—St. Louis University (Baguio), 98.04%, and Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City, 87.6%.
For Doctor of Medicine: UP-Manila (100%); Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (100%); Ateneo de Manila University (100%); Cebu Institute of Medicine (100%); UST (98.88%; University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (96.80%); Cebu Doctors’ University (95.74%); West Visayas State University-La Paz (95.29%); Xavier University-Cagayan de Oro (93.94%); Cagayan State University-Tuguegarao (86.36%); and University of St. La Salle-Bacolod (85.71%).
Senator Pia and Rep. Romulo said they would prefer to concentrate on improving access to education rather than on world rankings. They lament the unceasing increase in tuition fees but admitted that there’s no law prohibiting colleges from increasing the fees every school year. They said that the main solution is in providing for more scholarships and for and expanding the loan program for students.
Romulo said that the House has already approved on third and final reading House Bill 3575 or the proposed Ladderized Education Act. He said this is very timely with the coming full implementation of the K to 12 education program.
The measure seeks to harmonize all education and training mechanisms, allowing students and workers to progress between technical-vocational and college courses or vice versa. Romulo said the measure, which he authored with 56 other congressmen, “creates seamless and borderless educational and training system.”
Also pending in the House plenary are the bills improving access to education thru open learning and distance education, authored by Reps. Mark Villar of Paranaque and Czarina Umali of Nueva Ecija, and the bill providing for unified scholarship and grant-in-aid program to ensure access and equity to educational opportunities are given to those who need it most, authored by Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City.
Pia said her committee is also studying how to unify and harmonize all existing scholarship programs of the government.