MANILA--The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Friday urged senators to consider implementing a voucher system to enable children of overseas Filipino workers to continue studying despite economic challenges brought by the coronavirus crisis.
Officials expect a "dip" in enrolment in higher education institutions this semester as some OFWs lost income due to lockdowns across the world, CHED chair Prospero De Vera told the Senate Committee on Finance as the panel tackled bills on coronavirus-related stimulus packages.
"The voucher system is a very laudable initiative. We can target for example, on the first month, mga anak ng OFWs na hindi made-deploy," De Vera said in the online hearing.
"They will not have any money for the education of their children when schools open in August."
If universities "lay off faculties" to stay afloat due to the expected low enrolment this year, "there will be no schools" for some students who can finance their education, he said.
Senator Pia Cayetano agreed with De Vera's proposal, but said a survey should be conducted before funds are earmarked for the proposed voucher system.
"Kung hindi talaga papasok dahil kailangan siya ng pamilya niya at this point, kailangan natin ma-differentiate 'yun," she said.
Senators Sonny Angara and Imee Marcos said the CHED should also coordinate with OFW-related agencies such as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to avoid duplication.
De Vera also asked senators to consider providing cash aid for some 50,000 part-time teachers who are on a "no work, no pay" employment scheme.
"We have to help them, especially because the opening of classes of private universities is moving to August. Many of them did not have anything since the end of the semester all the way to August. That's about half a year already," De Vera said.
CHED said it also needs additional funding to sustain the agency's efforts in training teachers in online-based learning, he said.
"We have some funds but there is a huge number of teachers out there. We will need some funding to continue the training program of teachers," he said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that it was up to colleges and universities to deliver education during the pandemic.
Institutions that are capable of holding full online classes could open any time, while those that can offer flexible learning schemes can open in August.
Colleges and universities in areas under general community quarantine that need to hold face-to-face classes can open but not before September 1.