Gatchalian on why he supports K to 12, free higher education

Jee Y. Geronimo
Gatchalian on why he supports K to 12, free higher education
Sherwin Gatchalian, a senatorial aspirant in the 2016 elections, supports the K to 12 program and believes that making college tuition free will result to a 'radical reform' in Philippine higher education

MANILA, Philippines – Learning from lessons in his district, Valenzuela representative and senatorial candidate Sherwin Gatchalian said education will be his primary legislative agenda should he win a Senate seat in the 2016 elections.

“When I was a mayor in Valenzuela, we put a lot of focus on education – basic education and also higher education. I learned a lot personally,” Gatchalian said on Wednesday, November 11, in an interview on Rappler’s #TheLeaderIWant series.

“When you work in the local government, you basically have daily exposure to public education, and this is where you learn the true problems of our nation.”

The problems back in Valenzuela are quite basic, he said: malnutrition, and the “perennial” shortages in classrooms and textbooks. 

Still, he supports the hotly-contested K to 12 program and says the “negative effects” raised by critics are “short term” since the two additional years “are really an investment for the future of our kids.”

Several groups opposed to the K to 12 have filed petitions asking the Supreme Court to suspend the program. They insist the national government should address shortages in basic education first before reforming the curriculum. 

But Gatchalian said there are 3 reasons why he is in favor of the K to 12 program:

  1. Without K to 12, the Philippines will remain one of only 3 countries in the world with a 10-year pre-university cycle.
  2. There is a need to continuously reform basic education curriculum, but this has not been done “for a very, very long time” or, he believes, almost 20 years
  3.  The technical-vocational track under the K to 12’s senior high school will not only equip high school graduates in starting their own businesses, but will also give them additional skills employers are looking for from the workforce.

The K to 12 program will be fully implemented in the Philippines by 2016 as the education department rolls out nationwide the two additional years of senior high school.

It is estimated that about 1.2 million to 1.6 million students will enroll in senior high school in 2016.

Free higher education in PH?

Aside from his support for the K to 12 program, Gatchalian has also filed several education-related bills in Congress.

During his interview with Rappler, he talked about House Bill 5905 or the Free Higher Education Act, which already has the approval of the House committee on higher and technical education.

The lawmaker said the country only needs P12 billion to make tuition fees free in all state universities and colleges (SUCs). He claims this is doable, considering it is only 0.04% of the national government’s P3-trillion budget for 2016.

But while the chances are slim for the bill to be approved in the 16th Congress, the senatorial aspirant said it’s important to start the conversation on the bill since its enactment will result to a “radical reform” in higher education, and will increase student enrollment. 

This, in turn, will produce a skilled workforce that will allow the country to take advantage of its economic growth, Gatchalian said.

“We want it to be talked about, especially during this time when the elections [are] just around the corner. You want it to be a campaign issue or a campaign agenda. I think that bill can really transform the education system here in our country,” he explained.

Based on figures from the Commission on Higher Education, there are about 224 public higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines. This number excludes 451 SUCs satellite campuses.

If HB 5905 is enacted, it will benefit an estimated 1.54 million students enrolled in public HEIs. 

Below are the other education-related bills filed by Gatchalian:

House Bill 4360 Alternative Learning System Act Under study by a technical working group
House Bill 4785 The Continuing Education for Teachers Act Referred to stakeholders
House Bill 4801 Equitable Access to Math and Science Education Act Scheduled for meeting/hearing
House Bill 5348 Nutri-Skwela Act of 2015 Pending with the House committee on health


Gatchalian is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the party widely believed to be supporting the tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero.

He is an exclusive senatorial candidate of the Poe-Escudero tandem. (READ: What can Grace Poe’s senatorial bets offer?) – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.