2021 highlights of events in education (Part III)

By Dr. Rex Casiple

In March 2021, three high school students aged 13, 14 and 16 died of suicide in the province of Leyte after suffering from depression resulting from family and personal problems including poor academic achievement.

The school system was too stressful that may have contributed to depression and suicide. The long pandemic situation, lockdowns, stay at home, social distancing and other measures and orders to combat coronavirus infections brought depressive thoughts among millions of students enrolled in schools across the country.

Reports showed that 4.5 million Filipinos, more or less, were vaccinated from the start of government vaccination program in March 2021. This revealed that around 1.5 million Filipinos were vaccinated in a month. Education front liners of colleges and universities are part of the priority groups scheduled for vaccination in the availability of vaccine supplies.

In preparation for the possibility of holding limited face-to-face classes for selected medical and allied health courses in academic year (AY) 2021-2022, included in the vaccination program priority list are security guards, maintenance personnel and other employees of the higher education institution (HEIs). In April 2021 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) urged all countries to prioritize teachers in national COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plans.

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law Republic Act 11522 declaring May 18 of every year as the “National Higher Education Day”. This is to commemorate the founding anniversary of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on May 18, 1994 by virtue of Republic Act 7722 (RA 7722), otherwise known as the “Higher Education Act of 1994”.

On May 17-21, 2021 the CHED celebrated its 27th Founding Anniversary with the theme “PADYAK! Moving Forward, Claiming Victory for Philippine Higher Education. Pamantasan: Pandayan Tungo sa Kaunlaran”.

The celebration featured events, activities and webinars that revolved around the theme. Some education front liners of colleges and universities in Metro Manila were vaccinated during the National Higher Education Day celebration’s “symbolic vaccination” program. The CHED continued to broaden the access of deserving and qualified Filipino students to higher education opportunities by extending financial assistance to poor but deserving college students through scholarships, grants and loan programs especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CHED has facilitated the implementation in higher education of RA 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017. This Act implements free tuition and other school fees to students enrolled in state colleges and universities (SUCs) and CHED-recognized local colleges and universities (LUCs). It also subsidized the tuition and schooling of qualified students enrolled in private higher education institutions (PHEIs) and grant loan programs to qualified students enrolled in college and in graduate school. In 2021, around 2.5 million students were being financially assisted by the government. This was the basis for CHED claiming victory for Philippine higher education.

The 2021 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings evaluated and identified the top universities in the world from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Japan, Asia, among others.

Fourteen (14) Philippine universities were included among Asia’s best higher education institutions (HEIs) in the QS World University Rankings for Asia 2021. Included in the list was our very own Central Philippine University (CPU) from Western Visayas.

The QS World University Rankings is a global higher education think-tank and compiler of the world’s university rankings. This year’s ranking has shown an increase in the number of Philippine universities included in the top-performing universities in Asia.

(To be continued)