CHED 2022 ASEAN Celebration Kick-Off Ceremony

August 8, 2022


CHED 2022 ASEAN Celebration Kick-Off Ceremony

August 08, 2022

A pleasant morning to the Commission on Higher Education, to the institutions of higher learning, and to everyone gathered here today. I am grateful to be here, as we commemorate ASEAN’s 55th founding anniversary.

ASEAN’s Chairmanship Theme is “A.C.T., Addressing Challenges Together.” Indeed, this is what we should aspire for: that we build an ASEAN community for the people; and that we ensure that excellent higher education is a possibility for all people across regions, among any social strata; and that no one is left behind.

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted our region’s educational sector.  In 2021, ASEAN reported that COVID-related school closures affected the quality of education for more than 152 million children across its member states.[1]  The question we now face is: how do we learn from the pandemic? What is being asked of us to transform the ASEAN education sector so that it builds back better and stronger? How do we ensure that ASEAN students, most especially, our Filipino students, have broader access to higher education?

We have an education crisis. During the past years, it is the education sector that bore the brunt of the health and economic crises.  Our teachers had to utilize flexible learning approaches to ensure the delivery of quality education. It was even more difficult for students, especially those in the marginalized communities where many households have no Internet access, no computer, or even a smartphone to cope with the changes in the learning modalities.  Millions of Filipino students dropped out during the pandemic, as their parents lost livelihood, or as they lacked the means for distance learning.

According to data from the Department of Education, we had close to four million out-of-school youths in 2020.  In fact, the number of out-of-school youth in the country rose in the first four months of 2020 from 16.9 percent to 25.2 percent.[2]

I am deeply alarmed by the number of out-of-school youth. Education is essential. It is the right of every child to access education. There is no greater investment than education, to alleviate poverty and build a sustainable and progressive nation. We have to invest enough support for the education of our youth until college so that they can enjoy more opportunities to be employed as professionals in the future.

This is why I pushed for the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, and the Enhanced Basic Education Act.  With these laws, we could address the concerns of poor families, we are giving our youth the chance to obtain a college degree, and we are assured that our students are at par with the rest of the world.

Additionally, with the help of CHED, we were able to assist students through the Tulong Dunong Program. We are glad to note that we have thousands of scholars nationwide. I believe that this program has effectively lowered the number of out-of-school youth, as well as improved the quality of education in the province.

Filipinos, especially from low-income families, should know that they have these opportunities. One of the long-standing concerns of poor families is sending their children to college because most of the time, after finishing secondary education in public schools, they have no means to pay for college tuition fees. Thus, they opt to forego higher education and instead look for a job that would support their needs and their family’s.  Our laws are available and if properly implemented, should be able to remedy this need, and allow students the educational assistance they need from the national government.

It is our task to improve the situation of youth and their families through collaboration among ASEAN nations, the government, nongovernment organizations, businesses, and academia. We must also increase access to education by leveraging on the recent digital transformation. While there is strong progress in increasing internet and device access and developing education technology over the past two years, there is still a long way to go.

My first bill in the 19th Congress is the “ One Tablet, One Student Act.” The measure, which I have previously filed in the House of Representatives, seeks to provide each public elementary and secondary student, as well as students enrolled in state universities and colleges with a tablet.  If our students each have access to resources, it would help them cope with changes in our educational system.

I would also like to highlight a significant issue that is plaguing the youth, and which I hope to address if given the chance.  It is that our young population is facing disproportionate levels of unemployment and under-employment.  More than one out of five youth are not in employment, education, or training.  We must address this. That means ramping up skills development and education, with a focus on climate action, sustainable development, gender equality and inclusivity.

Lastly, I also ask that you look into school emergency preparedness. COVID-19-induced school closures and natural calamities shall continue to visit us.  It is imperative that we build a more resilient education ecosystem. Short-term stopgap measures have proven insufficient, and we need to develop education emergency preparedness plans that take into account long-term learning goals.

Schools, especially institutions of higher learning, are at the heart of social and economic recovery. It is hard to imagine there will be another moment in time when the central role of education is so well understood, and this presents a tremendous opportunity for the education community to transform key elements of our education systems.  Hopefully, the ASEAN, the region, the nation, and CHED will seize this opportunity to propel our education system and find new, more effective ways of providing quality, relevant teaching and learning experiences to students in and out of school—experiences that support their ability to apply what they learn to their lives and prepare them for the world that is to come.

Once again, thank you for having me, as we commemorate ASEAN’s 55th founding anniversary. Let us all ACT and address these challenges together.  Isang luntiang umaga sa inyong lahat.


[2] The report, titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Opportunities for Out-of-School Youth in the Philippines,” showed that the number of out-of-school youth in the country rose in the first four months of 2020 from 16.9 percent to 25.2 percent.