Friday, November 25, 2016

CHED last-ditch attempt to appeal to Congress for the return of P2-B budget cut for faculty development and research Inbox x

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CHED would like to issue this appeal to concerned lawmakers to restore the P2 billion budget cut at the bicameral conference committee on budget scheduled on 29 November.  This will allow CHED to fulfil its role of working towards a locally responsive and globally competitive Philippine higher education system.

On 19 October 2016, the House of Representatives (HoR) during its third and final reading of the P3.35 trillion Duterte Administration budget, slashed the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) proposed P13.37 billion to P11.37 billion.

The HoR removed PhP1 billion each from CHED’s Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes (PCARI) Project and its K to 12 Transition Program.  These funds were intended for faculty development and research.
For the PCARI Project, which is a continuing program since 2013, the proposed 2017 budget of PhP1.763 billion was intended to support 131 PCARI post-doctoral scholars, which CHED expects to double next year for advanced degrees in science and engineering. It will also fund 35 new PCARI research and development (R&D) proposals.

PCARI seeks to address the low research and innovation productivity of the Philippines in comparison with neighboring countries, based on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.  It was conceived by the science and academic community and approved by Congress in 2013 as a leap frogging strategy to build the country’s capacity for research that translates to technological innovations, strategic policies and concrete solutions to address development problems in the country.

The PCARI R&D Projects involve 15 Philippine HEIs with collaborators in the University of California. These projects address vital societal-scale problems and seek to develop capacity by supporting scholars who work on topics related to the research projects. All scholars are expected to study full-time or part-time in the University of California.

The current PCARI R&D portfolio includes the extension of cell phone sites for remote areas using the technology in a Village Base Station; design  hardware and software to manage the collection and analysis of big data gathered through the deployment of sensors in the power grid, water system, and the environment; design an algorithm for managing traffic in urban areas; develop affordable and efficient printable solar collectors and power storage systems that could be deployed in rural areas; create an early warning system for plant diseases affecting our banana plantations; design precise water management systems for agriculture; invent accurate diagnostic kits for dengue that could be used by rural health workers; discover new anti-malarial drugs; and enhance local capacity to design and assemble medical devices.

The K to 12 Transition Program was designed to mitigate the effects of the implementation of K to 12 on the higher education sector from 2016 to 2021, and to provide a safety net for faculty, staff and higher education institutions affected by low student enrolment, as students will be in Grades 11 and 12 instead of college. In the 1st semester of AY 2016-17 alone, more than 4,000 faculty and staff received grants from CHED, with an additional 3,000 grantees targeted for the 2nd semester. This allowed CHED to successfully minimize displacement of HEI personnel to just 3,286, compared to the estimated 9,000 for 2016 alone. 

The budget for 2017 is even more critical as two full batches of students—supposedly college freshmen and sophomores, respectively—would be enrolled instead in Senior High School come June 2017.

Continued support is needed to provide cushion to HEIs and encourage them to place their affected faculty and staff in graduate studies, continuing professional education, or research activities instead of retrenchment. Without sufficient funds, displacement numbers will increase drastically in 2017, with a PhP1 billion cut equivalent to a decrease in the coverage of about 2,463 faculty and staff.

CHED underscores the opportunity to invest in strategic reforms during this transition period to upgrade Philippine higher education sector, and for it to become more competitive regionally. In Malaysia, 70 percent of their faculty already have graduate degrees, while in Vietnam, the figure is at 62 percent, paralleled with generous scholarships abroad. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of our faculty have graduate degrees, oftentimes in disciplines not aligned to what they are teaching. Through the K to 12 Transition Program, CHED aims to increase this share to 70 percent in the next 5 years, with accompanying efforts to improve institutional capacities.

Finally, it is important to stress that the reduction in the budget of both projects run counter to President Duterte’s ten-point agenda that puts primacy on investments in human capital development—which begins foremost with faculty who are well-trained in their fields—as well as the promotion of science and technology to enhance innovation and creative capacity.

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