Students take their school oath in Manila. More than 24 million Filipino students started their first day of school on June 15, 2010. Image Credit: Reuters

Manila: The passage into law of a measure providing free college education could be a "game changer" for many Filipinos families as having a graduate could be a ticket out of poverty.

“A college diploma is the most decisive tool a Filipino can carry in the struggle to give his or her family a better life, and President Duterte has just given every Filipino the means to have it,” Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said, adding that the free college education law gives more Filipino families better pathways out of poverty.

Quality education is difficult to come by in the Philippines for families who have little money to pay for their children’s education.

While deserving students who could pass admission in state colleges and universities are provided with free tuition, they are required to maintain certain grades.

To get free quality education, some apply for admission to the Philippine Military Academy, the Philippine National Police Academy or enter priesthood or apply for scholarship from big companies, which would likely provide them with work upon graduation, or secure really high grades that comes with scholastic honours.

Free tertiary education signed

Under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education act, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last Thursday, Filipino college students — including those wishing to take up medicine — could be provided free education in state colleges or universities.

“I have always believed that education is the great equaliser. I am where I am today because of my education,” said Pimentel, who graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1990, and topped the Bar exams the same year.

The Senate chief says that the law is a boost for the country and not just for individuals.

Pimentel said: “With this law, our country will have a bigger pool of skilled professionals who are necessary for the development of a modern economy.”


But while Duterte’s move to sign the free college education law was widely welcomed, some Senators caution that funds should be ensured to make it feasible.

Earlier, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had said that such an undertaking may not be possible since it would provide a great drag on the country’s fiscal flow.

“We laud the President’s decision to sign the law even when there was some hesitation from his economic managers. The challenge now, however, is to ensure that the new law will be effectively and completely implemented in 112 state colleges and universities nationwide,” members of the Senate minority bloc said in a statement on Saturday.

The minority bloc is largely made up of members of the opposition Liberal Party.

“The new law will only become a reality if government allocates enough and accessible funding for SUCs nationwide. The executive branch and Congress must work closely to make tertiary education accessible to all through tuition subsidies and financial assistance,” they stressed.