Here’s a really good news!

This is for anyone who can’t afford to go to school, even for a three-month technical vocational education and training (TVET) course worth more or less Php10,000.

Perhaps, for the first time in the existence of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), TVET programs are going to be provided for free in all state-run technical vocational institutions (STVIs) across the country.

TESDA, with Headquarters in Bicutan, Taguig City, not far from Ayala Land’s ARCA South development site at the Food Terminal, Inc. (FTI) Compound, announced the new development on Sunday, October 7.

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Not to worry about the budget for at least the 2018-2019 TESDA academic year.

Secretary Guiling “Gene” A. Mamonding, director general of TESDA, said the Commission on Higher Education-Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (CHED-UniFAST) already allocated a Php6.9 billion fund through the Department of the Budget and Management (DBM) for the free TVET protram .

Interested individuals may now avail themselves of the Free TVET in all STVIs.

But here’s the catch, as every good thing has a catch.

According to TESDA, the following learners are not eligible to avail themselves of the Free TVET benefits:

  • Learners who have obtained a bachelor’s degree;
  • Learners who are already holders of a certificate or diploma for a technical vocational course equivalent to National Certificate Level Ill or higher, unless the trainee is enrolled in bundled courses or programs in Level IV or Diploma;
  • Learners enrolled in TVET programs not registered under TESDA; and,
  • Learners who voluntarily “opt out” of Free TVET.

The STVIs refer to state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs), TESDA Technology Institutions (TTIs), local government unit (LGU)-run training centers that offer training programs falling under the TESDA Unified TVET Program Registration and Accreditation Program (UTPRAS), the manpower agency said.

It was learned through an email from TESDA to SDN — Scitech and Digital News that the Free TVET is based on Republic Act No. 10931, otherwise known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA).

TESDA is operationalizing R.A. No. 10931, Mamondiong said as the law’s Implementing Guidelines for Free TVET have been approved and signed.

It can be recalled that President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed R.A. No. 10931 on April 3, 2017. It became effective for academic year 2018-2019.

The UAQTEA, said TESDA, “promotes better access to quality tertiary education by providing for free tuition and other school fees in SUCs, LUCs, and STVIs, paving the way for the establishment of Tertiary Education Subsidy and Student Loan Program (TESSLP), and by strengthening and appropriating funds for the (UniFAST).”

On the other hand, Mamondiong emphasized that the program is open to all Filipinos (except the exclusion above), adding those who wish to avail themselves of the Free TVET may simply go to any STVI offering TESDA-registered programs.

Covered by UAQTEA are registered TVET programs listed under the TESDA Compendium as of July 2017.

All Filipino learners who are currently enrolled at the  time of the Act’s effectivity, or shall enroll at anytime thereafter provided they comply with the admission and retention policies and existing residency rules of the STVIs may avail themselves of the Free TVET.

TESDA made clear that priority shall be given to:

  • Deserving learners who come from the most recently updated Listahanan (National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction),
  • Poorest of the poor,
  • orphans,
  • Dependents of informal settlers,
  • Rebel returnees/former rebels,
  • Rehabilitated drug dependents and their families,
  • Indigenous Peoples (IPs),
  • Persons with disabilities (PWDs),
  • People in the construction industry as a priority sector,
  • Internally displaced persons (IDPs),
  • Dependents of AFP/PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines/Philippine National Police) Personnel Killed-In-Action (KIA) or Wounded-In-Action (WIA), and,
  • Returning OFWs and their dependents.

Here are the requirements for admission, which include:

  • 10 years basic education and other entry requirement as stipulated in existing TESDA Training Regulations;
  • NCAE/MATBN/YP4SC Profiling; and,
  • Other STVI entry requirements if applicable.

Inclusive in the Free TVET are:

  • Living allowance (P160/day),
  • Instructional materials allowance (P5,000/qualification),
  • National Competency Assessment (NCA), and,
  • Starter toolkits and accident insurance.

Meanwhile, here’s another catch:

Eligible learners who voluntarily “opt out” from Free TVET shall pay, during the enrollment period for the training program, the amount equivalent to the full training cost and other training-related costs of the corresponding TVET program as determined by the TESDA Board.

For the time being, though, the Free TVET is not supported in private TVIs.

But Mamondiong hinted that the Free TVET maybe made available to private TVIs in the next school year. (EKU)