A BOLD plan by the University to build a well-trained, values-oriented pool of teachers and revive the country’s deteriorating basic education system has gained support from the Arroyo administration, with Malacañang pledging an initial P1 million for a scholarship program with the UST College of Education.

President Macapagal-Arroyo made the commitment over lunch with UST Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P. at the Palace last July 17.

“It is the University’s prayer that the scholarship graduates will help in the social transformation of the country,” Arceo said in an interview.

Contributions have begun to pour in with the launching of UST’s Quadricentennial Initiative for Philippine Education (QIPE), a program aiming to produce quality teachers and stem the exodus of basic educators, by financing the college education of promising high school graduates who want to join the country’s teaching force.

The QIPE, one of several UST initiatives ahead of the University’s 400th year in 2011, will grant academic scholarships to 40 to 50 students taking up secondary education yearly. An initial 36 College of Education freshmen – half of them from public high schools – received full scholarships last June.

Arceo said another benefactor who wanted to remain anonymous has also donated P1 million to the scholarship fund. The UST Medical Alumni Association of America has also given $10,000 dollars to the QIPE, the Rector said.

Arceo said he has also proposed a separate scholarship fund for Education students, to be named after the late father of Arroyo, former President Diosdado Macapagal, the second Thomasian bar topnotcher.

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The Rector said one of the major problems facing Philippine education is the lack of competent teachers who can prepare students for college work. “Teaching is not a lucrative business profession here in the country that is why many are forced to work abroad,” he said.

As public schools struggle with problems in quality and delivery, private schools are also facing a crisis of survival, forced to compete for enrollment with state educational institutions relying heavily on government subsidies.

By granting scholarships, UST hopes to attract young people to the teaching profession, Arceo said.

Under the College of Education, the Philippines’ oldest private teaching institute, the program aims to produce school teachers possessing a Catholic educational formation to raise professional standards and cure moral ambivalence in the country’s educational system.

“What sets Thomasian teachers apart is that they are honest, simple, have moral integrity, and possess the core values of the University,” College of Education Dean Clotilde Arcangel said.

The scholars are required to maintain a grade of 2.50 and will not be allowed to shift to other courses. They are also required to attend formation programs such as community classes, and must support other scholars after they graduate so as to ensure the continuity of the program.

Unlike other scholarships of the University, students who qualify for the 50 scholarship grants will be given full scholarships, inclusive of tuition and other fees, free lodging and other allowances during their four-year stay in the college.

In his inaugural address last year, the Rector placed Education on his list of priorities, noting the decline in enrollment at the College of Education with students preferring courses that would give them higher pay.

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Enrollment declined beginning schoolyear 2002-2003 but was arrested in schoolyear 2005-2006, which saw Education enrollment increasing by more than 6 percent to 2,697, statistics showed.

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