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Free college: When push could turn to shove

One other legacy that our President wants to leave his country when he retires or ends his term is free education at the tertiary or collegiate/university level, and this he recently ticked off his list when he signed into law Republic Act 10931 or “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.”

The law grants full tuition subsidy for students in state universities and colleges, local universities and colleges, and state-run technical-vocational schools. This includes “library fees, computer fees, laboratory fees, school ID fees, athletic fees, admission fees, development fees, guidance fees, handbook fees, entrance fees, registration fees, medical and dental fees, cultural and other similar or related fees.”

While it may be seen as  a laudable act on the part of the President, there have been a number of concerns raised on the move, mostly when the bill was being railroaded in Congress and before the bill was signed into law.

The President’s economic team had expressed apprehension over the cost of funding the law, especially at this time when its focus is to raise money to cover lost revenues from the restructuring of personal and corporate income taxes.

Waiving tuition fees in the covered schools is estimated to cost from P8 billion to P100 billion yearly, the former estimate coming from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the latter from a very distressed Department of Budget and Management.

Not pro-poor

But the biggest concern, which had been raised first by CHED chairwoman Patricia Licuanan, who incidentally is persona non grata at Cabinet meetings, is the potential for the law to benefit those who belong to the moneyed segments of society.

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According to Licuanan, only eight percent of the poor are enrolled in college. This is believable largely because of the inability of the poor to finish secondary education, and in many cases, even primary education despite the fact that this is free and compulsory by law.

This definitely goes against President Duterte’s objective to uplift the poor since the money that will be spent for the free tuition will benefit more those who can afford to pay for their education.

Since the law has already been passed, perhaps some remedial action may be introduced so that the benefits of the legislative action will really benefit those who deserve it.

Student business proposals

Underscoring the importance of quality education, here’s some good news about a Philippine-based business school that has gained recognition for its curriculum, not just in the ASEAN, but even the world.

Three teams of students from the Asian Institute Management (AIM) are going to New York next week to present their proposed business proposals in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The three teams will compete against four other teams that were chosen from 127 entries from around the world in the United Nations’ Breakthrough Innovation Challenge (BIC), the largest organized initiative between the UN and business schools.

It brings together students and young professionals from leading multinational companies to build sustainable business models that leverage on disruptive technologies that will solve company-specific sustainability challenges.

The AIM teams will defend their innovations at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit to be held on Sept. 21 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

The three teams were chosen by multinational companies whose ideas they want to work with over the next four months. By the way, the teams are students from the pioneer class of the AIM’s Master of Science in Innovation and Business program, as well as members of the Master in Development Management (MDM) and the flagship Master in Business Administration (MBA) programs.

AIM president and dean Dr. Jikyeong Kang is so proud of the students who are in the three teams which have validated AIM’s aim for education to stay relevant and innovative using inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to problem-solving.

These are the three teams’ entries: Gamification to boost livelihood

BIC finalist Team Bayanihan was selected by Brazil-based beauty product manufacturer Natura to create an online global collaboration platform. Through gamification, Team Bayanihan aims to create a culture of information-sharing and feedback to enhance the livelihood of the 1.88 million consultants selling Natura products in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

Team Bayanihan is composed of MIB team leader Jeremy Bedano, and members Emil Tanchico (MBA), and Dongwei Tan (MDM). Recognizing the value in working with colleagues from different AIM programs, Bedano said, “Our diverse backgrounds helped us come up with distinctive insights; we addressed the problem from different angles.”

Mobile-based learning to enhance farmer incomes

The largest petrochemical company in Latin America, Braskem, chose Team Cultivate’s commission-based business model to enable locals to learn and teach sustainable agriculture through mobile technology.

The team is composed of MIB team leader Leonard Cruz, and members Crystal Anievas (MDM), and Prashant Verma (MBA). Putting things in perspective, Cruz said, “What glues us together is less of the recognition if we win, but more of creating a positive impact in a community which in our case, are the farmers in Brazil.”

Energy access via a sharing economy

Team Poweblo (whose name is a play on power and the Spanish word for village, pueblo) was chosen by Spanish electric utility company Iberdrola, which wants to provide everyone with access to clean and affordable energy. Team Poweblo, in turn, proposes that Iberdrola use smart technologies to share and sell renewable energy between homes.

The two-man team is made up of MIB team leader Jon de Omana and Saksham Kumar (MBA 2017). Inspired by compelling technologies such as solar panels that look like roof tiles and pre-crafted homes, Jon thought, “What if we could sell pre-crafted homes with solar panel roofs and connect them to a smart grid?”

We congratulate the three teams for making it to the finals, and wish them luck next week.

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