The Philippines is not “the only developing country in the whole world” that offers free higher education, contrary to a claim by Commission on Higher Education chair Prospero de Vera.
De Vera told Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church and a staunch supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, over SMNI News on Oct. 14 that the Philippines is the only developing country where higher education is free.
We are the only developing country in the whole word that is providing free higher education. The only developing country. The others who are doing it are developed countries. They already have the resources to do it. We’re the only ones that’s doing it.
A video of the interview was uploaded to the SMNI News Channel on YouTube on Oct. 15 and titled, “PH is the only developing country worldwide with free higher education – CHED.” [Watch 0:12-0:28]
SMNI stands for Sonshine Media Network International, the official broadcasting arm of Quiboloy’s church.
DZAR, SMNI’s flagship AM station, posted to its Facebook page that day a quote card containing De Vera’s statement with the status, “Pilipinas, tanging developing country sa buong mundo na may Free Higher Education - Dr. J. Prospero Popoy De Vera III.”
De Vera, in turn, published DZAR’s card on his Facebook account on Oct. 19, saying “We have to make sure that the next President will have the same political will to continue Free Higher Education.”
De Vera was referring to free higher education in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs) mandated by Republic Act 10931, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act Duterte signed on Aug. 3, 2017.
Duterte appointed De Vera, a former vice president for public affairs of the University of the Philippines, as CHED commissioner in September 2016. De Vera was named the commission’s chair in October 2018, a position he will hold till July 2022.
Apart from the Philippines, however, Sri Lanka has been offering free university education—since the 1940s.
“Sri Lanka is a country with a proud history of free education from the primary level to higher education including university education,” the Presidential Task Force on Sri Lanka’s Education Affairs said in a July 2020 report.
The free education scheme has been in force since 1945, “under which education is free from primary onwards until one obtains a first degree from a university,” according to a study on its higher education policy.
Sri Lanka’s free higher education policy has several downsides, however.
“Sri Lankan tertiary education is driven by the state and tuition is free for bachelor’s degree programs at state higher education institutions, which constrains the expansion of access,” an Asian Development Bank report said.
Only half of Grade 13 students who take the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A-levels) to enroll in higher education pass. Of those who do, only 11% proceed to universities and advanced technical institutions, a World Bank report said.
Sri Lanka only has 15 recognized public universities under the control of the University Grants Commission.
A number of developed countries, mostly in Europe, offer free higher education. These include Germany, France, Sweden and Norway.
Dundar, H., et al. (2017). Sri Lanka education sector assessment achievements. World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/27042/9781464810527.pdf?sequence=2
DZAR. (2021, October 15). Pilipinas, tanging developing country sa buong mundo na may Free Higher Education - Dr. J. Prospero Popoy De Vera III [Attached image]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/DZAR1026/photos/4820826247956896
Hayashi, R., et al. (2020). Online learning in Sri Lanka’s higher education institutions during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Asian Development Bank. https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/635911/online-learning-sri-lanka-during-covid-19.pdf
Jayasundara, N. (2014). Higher education policy in Sri Lanka: Implementation in state universities. Scientific Research Journal, 2(2), 41–44. http://www.scirj.org/papers-0214/scirj-P021499.pdf
Popoy de Vera. (2021, October 19). We have to make sure that the next President will have the same political will to continue Free Higher Education [Attached image]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/prospero.devera/posts/10158871154152739
Re-imagining education in Sri Lanka. (2020). Presidential Task Force on Sri Lanka’s Education Affairs. http://nec.gov.lk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/5.Re-imagining-Education-in-Sri-Lanka-Vol-II-Core-Group-Reports-by-Presidential-Task-Force.pdf
SMNI News. (2021, October 15). PH is the only developing country worldwide with free higher education – CHED [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/LFrhW8nP-_M
Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act 2017 (Republic Act 10931). https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/downloads/2017/08aug/20170803-RA-10931-RRD.pdf
World Bank. (n.d.). GDP per capita (current US$). https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD?view=chart
World Bank. (n.d.). Lower middle income. https://data.worldbank.org/country/XN