Acad calendar shift to usher in expensive ‘education tourism’

Thursday, February 6, 2014

With top Philippine universities UP and Ateneo de Manila University now adopting the August-May academic year, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon foresees a new trend that’s about to emerge: “education tourism.”

Ridon described education tourism as an upcoming trend wherein foreign students would rush to enroll in Philippines for their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

“Actually, education tourism has been on the rise for some years now. But with universities in the country now aligning with the academic calendars of more foreign higher education institutions, we won’t be surprised if more and more foreign students start enrolling in our schools,” Ridon said.

But there’s nothing to rejoice about, Ridon said, as the influx of education tourism comes with a catch: skyrocketing tuition and other fees.

“Of course, if education becomes another tourist attraction, then we foresee that tuition rates would also come at tourist prices,” Ridon said, echoing a statement from the National Union of the Philippines (NUSP) that predicts a rise in “commercialization and privatization” as a result of the academic calendar shift.

Both the UP System and Ateneo announced today that starting next academic year, their respective academic calendars would begin by August. The said schools have earlier explained that the shift is in line with “internationalization efforts,” noting that the Philippines is the only remaining ASEAN member still sticking to the June-March academic calendar.

The change will affect all UP units, except UP Diliman, where the proposal has been met with staunch criticism.

“We lament the hasty passage of said revisions in both schools, despite the lack of proper consultation and the benefit of an in-depth study. We have to remember that even the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has cautioned against this move,” Ridon said, noting that CHED’s study on the academic calendar shift has yet to be released.

Ridon added that even Congress has yet to tackle the issue.

The youth legislator has earlier filed House Resolution No. 733 which calls for an inquiry on the planned academic calendar shift to determine “either the feasibility or nonworkability of the said proposal and ascertain its ramifications to the education sector.”

“We’re supposed to tackle it this week – but the congressional inquiry has been moved. We’re all actually taken aback with UP and Ateneo’s announcement, since it’s not yet clearly studied,” Ridon said.

Ridon also feared the effects of having unsynchronized academic calendars in UP. “It will have a great impact on integration, especially on inter-unit school activities,” said Ridon, who served as student regent in UP back in 2007.

‘Dire ramifications’

“The August-May calendar is so incongruent with the climate, culture, and orientation of our education system that it poses dire ramifications to our students and faculty,” Ridon said.

In HR 733, Rep. Ridon specifically cited the position paper of the NUSP which states three possible effects of the calendar shift to the country’s education system, which include the creation and prioritization of courses designed to “meet the international demand for cheap labor,” shift academic priorities in line with global demand rather than national need, and the intensification of commercialization and privatization with the expected surge of tuition and other fees brought about by education tourism.

The youth legislator also cited the group Anakbayan’s position that the academic calendar shift runs counter to the country’s agricultural calendar and would vastly affect students from rural areas.

“If more higher education institutions join the bandwagon for the academic calendar shift, we fear that the time will come when our universities become so foreign-oriented and overpriced that it will be filled not by young Filipinos but by foreigners who wish to finish their studies in the tropics,” Ridon said.

“There is nothing wrong with international programs and giving particular attention to improving international integration. But we also have to take into consideration the effect the calendar shift will have on our students and the education sector. Given such factors, I think there remains to be no compelling reason to change the academic calendar,” Ridon concluded.###