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(by Dang Samson Garcia)

SENATOR Pia Cayetano waded into the debates whipped up by proposals to review the free college education program, saying the government will have to continue supporting students to boost progress.

“In summary, for me it’s quite simple. We will continue supporting the financial assistance to students, but we need to prioritize the courses that would have a direct contribution to economic and social development,” the senator said.

“I believe that this is the most sensible, cost-efficient, and sustainable development model for our state tertiary education program,” she added.

She said that there is a merit in the positions of Finance Secretary Benjammin Diokno and Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero De Vera III but noted that the government has to allocate the limited public funds judiciously and at the same time support deserving students.

Diokno had said that the free education program is not sustainable while De Vera said free education changes lives.

Cayetano admitted that education is the “great enabler.”

“But what must be done is for us to identify the priority courses that will spur economic and social growth,” she said.

“For instance, it is a fact that we have a shortage of healthcare professionals. Not just doctors and nurses, but the entire range of allied medical professions, such as pharmacists, physical therapists, radiologic technologists, and others,” she added.

The senator said the government also needs to provide funding for State Universities and Colleges to expand and upgrade their facilities and ensure the development of their faculty members.

“In the same vein, we have to support education courses to enable us to produce quality teachers in different areas of study, including STEM, as well as para teachers to complement our pool of teaching personnel. We also need more mental health associates and specialists in the basic education sector as defined in the new bill we just passed in the Senate,” Cayetano said.