Philippines lifts ban on nursing programs after thorough review

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By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINES’ higher education commission has lifted a 2011 policy that banned the opening of new nursing undergraduate programs amid an oversupply that left graduates jobless.

“After a very thorough review and study of the moratorium on nursing, the commission en banc yesterday decided to lift the moratorium based on an exhaustive discussion,” Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero E. De Vera III told a virtual news briefing that was streamed live on Facebook on Wednesday.

The ban was reviewed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2021.

If the policy was immediately lifted, “we might go back to the same situation before 2011 and that situation was of crisis proportions at that time,” Mr. De Vera said. “We must ensure the problems encountered before will not happen anymore now.”

Meanwhile, private sector groups asked the Marcos government to prioritize nutrition and education after a coronavirus pandemic shut down schools for years.

Increased investments in education and nutrition would solve poor learning outcomes among young Filipinos, the groups led by the Philippine Business for Education (PBED) said in a statement.

“For decades, our human capital has been neglected,” the groups said. “One in every three children and below are stunted. Nine out of 10 learners are not able to meet minimum reading skills.” 

“Focusing on nutrition and education will increase human capital,” said the groups, which also include the Makati Business Club and Philippine Business for Social Progress. “It will drive economic growth and development and allow Filipinos to lead comfortable and productive lives.”

The groups asked the government to develop nutrition-specific solutions that are accessible for mothers and children who are at risk.

The state should also promote public-private partnerships for nutrition-centric governance at the local levels, they said. It must strengthen safety nets for vulnerable households through continued access to safe, affordable and nutritious food.

The government should likewise empower farmers by providing them with climate-smart resources and technology, the groups said. 

To address learning conditions, the government must ensure that children are sent to quality pre-kindergarten and Grade 3 education and developmental programs.

Agencies should use the lens of lifelong learning in workforce development and strengthen the autonomy of school leaders while ensuring accountability, they added. 

Investment in human capital should be among the first orders of business of the new government, PBED Chairman Ramon R. del Rosario told a briefing later in the day. “We implore our new administration to make effective learning a serious goal in its first 100 days.”

“There is mounting evidence that unless this country strengthens its human capital, it cannot achieve sustained inclusive economic growth,” he said, citing a 2019 World Bank report.

“We will not have a workforce prepared for the more highly skilled jobs of the future, and we will not compete effectively in the global economy,” Mr. Del Rosario said. “It is our inadequacies in human capital development that is holding us back from achieving true progress as a nation.”

Mr. Del Rosario cited the experience of South Korea, which he said progressed by improving its educational system. “Now, they are reaping the returns.”

“Not only has South Korea achieved universal literacy today, but its students also perform at the highest levels in international learning assessments,” he said. “The answer is there. Make education and learning a priority. Invest in the lifelong learning of our people.”

He asked the government to convene the Second Congressional Commission on Education so it can assess the country’s educational system. Congress ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the creation of the commission in May.

The commission is expected to recommend targeted and timebound solutions to allow educational agencies to improve their performance. 

“With proper education reforms under [the commission], we can achieve shared prosperity within this generation, hopefully,” Mr. Del Rosario said. “While it is not the only solution, this is the critical first step towards it.”

Philippine schools were shuttered after a hard lockdown was imposed in 2020 to contain a coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus infections spurred by more contagious Omicron subvariants have increased in the past week, according to the Health department.