• TOP 10 GRADUATES OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS REMINDED:

    You are an ‘Iskolar ng Bayan’

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     by law, the top graduates of public high schools are entitled to scholarships in a state university or college in their respective region

    by law, the top graduates of public high schools are entitled to scholarships in a state university or college in their respective region

    If you’re a parent of a 2015 college freshman who graduated in the Top 10 of his or her public high school in any part of the Philippines­–or if you’re that student yourself–then let’s hope you knew well enough that you needn’t have paid tuition for this first semester of the new school year.

    This is the reminder of the chairman of the Committee on Higher Education in the House of Representatives, Pasig City Congressman Roman Romulo, who sponsored the Iskolar ng Bayan Act of 2014.

    “This law provides scholarships grants to all students within the Top 10 bracket in every graduating class in all public highs schools, and not just to the valedictorians or salutatorians of the class,” Romulo explained at a luncheon this week, which included The Sunday Times Magazine. “The scholarships can be availed of in any state college or university within the region where the student graduated, but the problem is, it seems that the dissemination of this information, and more importantly, the implementation of this law hasn’t been carried out well enough in many parts of the country.”

    To augment the situation Romulo, who himself is a product of premiere state university, the University of the Philippines’ College of Law, has taken in upon himself to travel to as many provinces as he can in the last several months, leading up to the opening of the 2015-2016 school year.

    rep. roman romulo of pasig sponsored the iskolar ng bayan bill, which was passed in 2014

    rep. roman romulo of pasig sponsored the iskolar ng bayan bill, which was passed in 2014

    “Patuloy po akong umiikot sa mga probinsya, kung saan nakarating sa ating kaalaman na hindi alam ng karamihan ng tao ang mga batas sa edukasyon, katulad nitong Iskolar ng Bayan Act [I have been going around different provinces where it has come to my attention that most Filipinos hardly know the laws we have on education, including the Iskolar ng Bayan Act],” lamented the lone representative of Pasig City. “Karapatan po nila ito kaya ako’y humigingi ng tulong sa media na mapaabot itong napaka importanteng impormasyon sa ating mga estudyante at sa kanilang mga magulang upang matulungan silang makapag-aral sa kolehiyo [This is their right, which is why I am seeking the help of media to make known this important piece of information to help students and their parents send them to college].”

    Romulo urges those who qualify for the scholarship by law to approach the regional office of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in their area to avail of their rightful benefits.

    Asked by The Sunday Times Magazine if qualifying students who have already started college can demand to reimburse their paid tuition, Romulo pledged, “They can send an email through my website www.romanromulo.com and my office will help facilitate what needs to be done.”

    According to the lawmaker, who happens to be the son of respected statesman Alberto Romulo, it is his longtime advocacy to provide greater accessibility to higher education among those who are usually hobbled by financial difficulties that pushes him to see to the proper implementation of the law.

    He is able to prove his dedication in helping Filipinos go on to higher education are some 30 bills on education and education-related issues, many of which seek to provide financial assistance to students and teachers. Three of these bills, including the Iskolar Ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), have already become laws, namely the Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), and the Ladderized Education Act (RA10647).

    “Education is the surest path to enhance and a person’s economic and social development. That is why we must explore all possible avenues to promote higher education so that poverty will no longer be a bar that will prevent any Filipino from attaining the proper education that he is entitled to,” Romulo asserted.

    “I want to see the day when it will become impossible for a properly educated Filipino to remain poor. He may not become rich but he will not be wanting,” the congressman ended.

    Bespectacled as he is, the man is quite a looker, which means that he can easily pass off as a screen personality.

    The only hindrance, perhaps, is that there seems to be no hint in him of being somebody who can effortlessly mesh into the world of make-believe, either in the manner he carries himself or even in the way he speaks. (Translation: walang kaarte-arte sa katawan. What you see is what you get.)

    Romulo is simply too serious in pursuing his role as the lead advocate in a consistent effort to make Philippine education “level up” as current youth speak puts it.

    Another bill, the UniFAST bill, was recently approved during the bicameral conference committee composed of lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate. It will be submitted to the plenary session of both chambers for final approval after which it goes to Malacañang for the signature of President Benigno Aquino 3rd before it becomes a law. UniFAST stands for United Student Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education.

    Two other bills have already been passed on third reading and are awaiting concurrent action from the Senate. These are the Voluntary Student Loan Program bill and the Campus Safety and Security bill.

    Probably the most important of the three education laws authored by Romulo is the Iskolar Ng Bayan Act.

    With around 8,000 public high schools in the country, the estimate is that this law will benefit about 80,000 students. The law provides that these graduates shall enjoy free tuition and other fees and they shall be admitted automatically without the need to take entrance examinations. And if a public high school has more than 500 students in its graduating class, it shall be entitled to one additional scholarship.

    The only limitation is that the number of scholarships should not exceed 5 percent of the incoming college freshmen in the state college or university.

    As chairman of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, what fires up Romulo most is the desire to provide greater accessibility to higher education among those who are usually hobbled by financial difficulties.

    “Education is the surest path to enhance and a person’s economic and social development. That is why we must explore all possible avenues to promote higher education so that poverty will no longer be a bar that will prevent any Filipino from attaining the proper education that he is entitled to,” Romulo asserted.

    “I want to see the day when it will become impossible for a property educated Filipino to remain poor. He may not become rich but he will not be wanting,” the
    Pasig City lawmaker added.

    The two other laws on education that he authored appropriately complement the Iskolar Ng Bayan Act.

    The law on Open Distance Learning provides opportunity for anybody to earn a bachelors degree or even obtain masters and doctoral titles even at home. Or even while working, here or abroad. They can simply take any course they want online, using computers. Hence, even OFWs can take advantage of this law, thanks to the revolutionary advances of information and communications technology.

    On the other hand, the Ladderized Education Act allows a student to enrol and finish a course on technical or vocational education, like welding or automotive servicing that can help him land a job soonest.

    A person who is further motivated to rise up the economic and social ladder can then work for an engineering or related degree. The courses he had previously taken that are related to his chosen field of higher study will be credited to him and there is no need for him repeat these subjects.

    Judging alone from these laws and bills that he authored and the numerous other bills he has filed on this subject, it may appropriately be said that Roman Romulo has become the leading man in bringing to reality the Constitutional mandate that education be given top priority in all government concerns.

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