CHED says no allocation for 'smart campuses' in 2021 budget

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2020 11:08 PM

Faculty members of the Saint Francis of Assisi College in Talon III, Las Piñas City orient their high school students on the process and procedures of virtual campus on August 6, 2020. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Monday said the agency has no budget to create "smart campuses" next year, even as the education sector continues to shift to a distance learning system due to the global pandemic.

While the Bayanihan to Heal Recover as One contains P3 billion for State Universities and Colleges, the sector's 2021 budget has "no allocation for smart campuses," CHED chair Prospero De Vera told senators during their budget hearing.

"The problem is there is no allocation for smart campuses in the 2021 National Expenditure Program so what we can only commit is the foundation [of smart campuses]," De Vera said.

"Beyond that there are no appropriations to continue building up from the foundation," he said.

The P3-billion fund for higher education institutions may not be enough to turn all state universities and colleges (SUCs) into smart campuses, De Vera said.

"If the intention of the Senate is to distribute this equally among SUCs, then the intention of creating smart campuses will not happen because the SUCs are differently situated," he said.

"Their status as far as connectivity is also differently structured," he said.

There is also no list that details the current tech needs of SUCs, said Tirso Ronquillo, president of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).

"At the moment we do not know the profile of SUCs as to who are [technologically] challenged and who are somehow prepared," he said.

CHED has already formed a technical working group to define the equipment needed to turn a school into a smart campus, De Vera said.

Senate Committee on Higher Education chair Joel Villanueva urged CHED to act urgently on the matter as the P3-billion fund would expire on December 31, along with the rest of the 2020 budget.

"I hope we can see the urgency on this matter," he said.

"I think there is a sense of urgency here because we have roughly 3 months to take thise opportunity for the development," he said.