New chief orders reform of TESDA program

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:14:00 08/07/2010


MANILA, Philippines—The newly appointed head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Joel Villanueva, has ordered an overhaul of the agency's school accreditation and scholarship program, citing the dismal 20 percent employment rate of Tesda scholars.

He also ordered an investigation into reports of "ghost scholars" and fly-by-night schools that may have dipped their hands into some P5.6 billion in Tesda scholarship funds in the past two years.

“We have a very big budget [for training], but we only have a 20 percent absorption rate. It's unacceptable,” Villanueva told the Inquirer.

Tesda figures showed that of some 743,465 enrolled in Tesda training centers and partner schools from 2008 to 2009, only 113,710 or 15 percent were employed after graduation.

The worst absorption rates could be seen in Region 4B or Mimaropa (Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Romblon and Palawan) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Basilan, Sulu Tawi tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and the City of Marawi), where less than two percent of Tesda scholars got jobs after training.

Central Visayas rated the highest with a 69 percent absorption rate as some 22,370 of 32,351 enrollees found employment after graduation.

According to government reports, Tesda spent some P5.6 billion to sustain the scholarships from 2008 to 2009. Before Villanueva assumed office, Tesda had also made a commitment to release another P1 billion, even though no more funds were available.

“We will have to intensively review the system to find out what we're doing wrong,” said Villanueva, adding that skills and competencies offered in the training programs must be raised to ensure better chances of employment.

Villanueva said he has received reports that several training schools were making claims for non-existent or "ghost scholars," while some had illegitimate or fly-by-night operations.

He said many schools have been nagging him to release their allocated funds but he has discovered that the funds have already been used up.

He has ordered an investigation into why the additional P1-billion scholarship fund was approved when the budget had already been spent.

“We have to look at the schools because there are reports—and I hope it’s not true—that a lot of these schools are fly-by-night,” he said.

Villanueva said reports also claimed that some schools, even legitimate ones, cut funds for scholars or filed claims for non-existent or "ghost scholars."

“With that, even the (genuine) scholars are affected. I'm sure, many are legitimate but they never get the money. Right now, I still can't say who is to blame but after the investigation, we will recommend what should be done,” he said.

On his first day in office, Villanueva canceled two suspicious procurement contracts worth a total of P112 million. He said the allocations apparently involved ghost delivers and overpriced items.

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