RP Losing Grip as Mecca for Foreign Students

Manila Bulletin, July 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

RP Losing Grip as Mecca for Foreign Students


Byline: CATHERINE TEVES

MANILA (PNA) ? For many years the Philippines was a mecca for foreigners wanting to study in the country because of its high educational standard comparable with other countries at much lower tuition fees.

But at the turn of the new millennium, there came a downward trend in the influx of foreign students.

The question: Can the Philippines reclaim the tag as the cynosure of foreign students flocking colleges and universities in Metro Manila?

The decline has hounded the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). But statistics show a slight increase in the number of foreign students enrolled in various schools in the country. From 2,323 in 2000-01 school year, the number went up to 2,836 for school year 2001-2002.

Still the figure is far below the 4,419 foreign students admitted to local colleges and university in 1997-98, CHED said. Although fresh data from the CHED are not yet available, Dr. Roger Perez, CHED executive director, put the blame on quality and relevance of courses as major causes of the decline. ?That was when our higher education was really classified as one of the best in the region,?? Perez recalled.

Admission of foreigners into Philippine schools has always been encouraged by the government as another means of generating foreign exchange receipts for the country, aside from promoting goodwill. For example, Australia?s Gross National Product earns about A$300 million annually from tuition fees paid by foreign students, Perez said.

LURE THEM BACK

Perez is positive that foreign students could be lured back to the Philippines because the old attractions are still there. Most of the foreign students studying in the country today come from South Korea, Taiwan and China who was drawn to country?s proficiency in the English language.

?I looked for a school where English is the medium,?? said Beyan Atta, a postgraduate mass communications students from Eritrea, Africa, studying at the University of the Philippines (UP).

Perez also noted the comparably lower cost of living and education here as one of the reasons why foreign students like to study in the Philippines. For example, 20-year old UP Hotel and Restaurant Management freshman Mayu Tsujimura from Japan finds here current school fees of 60,000 yen covering six units amazingly less then her estimated 300,000 yen needed to enroll in the same at Osaka University where she?s on leave as a Filipino major.

But foreign schools have become attractive educational alternatives for the students and Dr. Perez was not a bit surprised. The quality of education offered by these institutions seems better, he explained. For instances, he cited Australia?s graduate programs and Thailand-based Asian Institute of Technology?? technical courses as among the best.

In what?s probably a sign of the times, the overall performance assessment of higher education institutions (HEIs) across Asia and the Pacific yielded results that were not very encouraging. Among all Philippine schools, only UP, Ateneo University and be La Salle University made it to the international assessment list, Perez noted.

?Perhaps the explanation here is you have to equate quality with expenditures for education. Insofar as instruction and research are concerned, there?s much left to be desired from our schools, he said.

Adding further to the problem is the current worldwide recession.

Nevertheless, there would be a public outcry if tuition fees are increased, he said. …

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