“Perhaps those members of Congress who are UP graduates should show more loyalty to their alma mater instead of remaining so quiet”
We often hear the old cliché that education is the best investment a country can have to secure its future.
It used to be that when it came to education, we used to be the top in the region.
We often heard some educators boasting that the country is where the oldest university in Asia is.
Not anymore. Over the past decades, there has been a marked and undeniable deterioration of the quality of our education at all levels.
It is pointless to have to enumerate again how badly our students are faring in reading, mathematics and science.
We have been ending dead last or second to the last in many of the tests participated in by our students.
When it comes to our institutions of higher learning, we have something like 15 universities listed in the World University Rankings led by the University of the Philippines placing between 601 and 800 for 2022.
Singapore and Malaysia have universities currently ranked higher than our UP while Thailand has two ranked 521 and 541.
Indonesia’s highest ranked university is currently at from 801 to 1,000.
What this tells us is that our institutions of higher learning have been losing ground to our neighbors over the years and we do not seem to be bothered by it.
I hate to think the country has sunk to the level of mediocrity.
The competition among institutions of higher learning to rank higher than the rest or their previous ranking has been intense over the last decades.
This is partly because rank plays an important part in attracting students all over the world. Students always want to go to the best school.
Since the prestige of UP is not the only one at stake but the country’s educational reputation as well, we should muster our collective resources to upgrade the ranking of our universities.
But this is perhaps something that is not a priority for our leaders.
It is too bad if this is the case because in many instances countries are judged by the quality of their universities.
If for instance, UP is in the top 30 of universities all over the world instead of between 601 and 800, then that says a lot about our educational system.
But with the current ranking of UP, it’s not something to brag about.
If there is P588B in unprogrammed expenditures in the 2023 budget that Congressman Ralph Recto is questioning, was it so hard for DBM for instance to have added P5B to UP’s budget considering that inflation could hit about 6 per cent this year?
In the overall scheme of things, P5B is a miniscule amount to add to the UP budget and other State universities for them to compete better.
In all probability, the P2.5B taken out will have a negative impact on UP’s ability to enhance its standing.
The explanation of the Department of Budget and Management is that the P2.5B was a one-time capital expenditure outlay and should not be considered a reduction in the school’s budget.
The DBM went further to explain that the overall education budget has actually increased and is still the biggest government outlay for the 2023 national budget, proving that the government’s priority is still education.
This may be true but the explanation is very unsatisfactory.
With inflation alone, DBM could have managed to find a way to increase the budget instead of basically maintaining it.
This is true with the Philippine General Hospital whose budget also went down and the reason given by DBM is the same—one time capital expenditure.
But with the hospital continuing to play a frontline role in treating COVID-19 cases, it stands to reason that it should have more resources.
DBM, or perhaps Congress, apparently does not think that additional money is needed for the hospital and school.
But going back to UP’s ranking, the way Universities are ranked all over the world is a complicated process.
One item mentioned for instances is the number of Nobel Prize winners and foreign academics teaching in a university.
Still another is the number of PhDs teaching in the school.
The number of research studies published is equally important together with so-called citations.
As we can see, all these activities need funds. But if a school is always scrambling for funds, it is going to be hard to compete.
I am a bit surprised that graduates from UP are not up in arms objecting to what happened to their school’s budget.
Perhaps those members of Congress who are UP graduates should show more loyalty to their alma mater instead of remaining so quiet.
Although I am not a UP graduate, I am one of those who hate to see the country being overtaken in many areas where we used to be on top because it is not good for the country’s image.