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Never enough

By: Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate

Republic Act. No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act has been heralded as a truly valuable, historic and meaningful legacy of the Duterte Administration and of the 17th Congress.

Sadly, not all sectors in our society have positive regard for this governance achievement. Militant or progressive student and youth groups recently aired their dissatisfaction – not because undergraduate students in state and local colleges and universities can now avail of free education but because the law does not cover graduate students or those pursuing master and doctor degrees, including those studying law.

Should the government (both the Executive and Legislative branches) be faulted for not including graduate students as among the beneficiaries of the free tertiary education law?

Given the current resource realities of our government and of the country, it will be a disservice to the Filipino people if the government will decide to pay for the graduate studies of Filipinos in state and local colleges and universities.

With the limited resources that we have, including graduate students as beneficiaries of free education service of the government will mean sacrificing vital and basic services for the people as higher budget will be needed to finance the law’s implementation.

Graduate students are already “professionals” capable of earning money because they are already armed by undergraduate degrees. Most, if not all of them, pursue graduate studies for their own professional development – that is, to enable themselves to earn even more.

There is definitely nothing wrong with Filipinos pursuing graduate degrees for professional development. There is also nothing wrong with them earning more. But, should they be “entitled” to spend the people’s money for such pursuit, particularly during this time when our country does not even have enough resources for basic services? Is free graduate education a basic service that the government should provide or that the Filipino people should pay for?

There is really nothing wrong in criticizing policies and performance of our government. It is our right to do so. It is also our responsibility. In exercising such right and in doing our responsibility, we should do so within the frame of reason and reality.

If R.A. No. 10931 is not enough for some of us given the current state of our resources, I honestly do not what should be considered enough. If our government cannot be considered as “good” for providing the free tertiary education service, I also do not know what service does the government need to provide for it to be considered good.