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‘Pensionado’ scholar system revival eyed

A first-term congressman on Saturday pushed for the sending of Filipino scientists and experts abroad at government expense through the revival of the American Era “pensionado system.”

Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles has filed a resolution seeking to provide annual appropriations in the government’s budget for the training of Filipino scientists and experts abroad.

Nograles, a vice chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Higher and Technical Education, filed House Resolution 1380 titled “Resolution Urging the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education to Advocate the Training of More Filipino Scientists and Experts Abroad through Annual Appropriations for this Purpose,” adding that “we need to provide our scientists and experts with opportunities to learn from the best across the world, and for them to apply what they have learned in our own setting.”

The American Era “pensionado system” was established under Pensionado Act or Act Number 854 of the Philippine Commission, which was passed on August 26, 1903.

The law, which was later passed by the US Congress, established a scholarship program for Filipinos to attend school in the United States to prepare the Philippines for self-governance and present a positive image of Filipinos to the rest of the United States. Students of this scholarship program were known as pensionados. 

Many of the some 500 pensionados went on to become influential individuals in the government and the private sector.

During the Japanese Occupation, many Filipino scholars were sent to Japan for the same purpose.

“Many other countries, and even our Southeast Asian neighbors, have benefitted from this kind of setup. If we do not act, we will be left behind,” said Nograles.

Nograles, a Harvard-trained lawyer, added that “experts could benefit not only from the theoretical knowledge they could acquire, but also from being exposed to other cultures and being able to view events in the country from a distance.”  “Distance provides proper perspective. Sometimes when we are too close or too immersed in what we love we fail to see how we may improve,” he added.

The resolution cited data from the Commission on Higher Education that reveals that there are only around 16,000 Filipino students studying abroad.

While the number of Filipinos studying abroad had doubled in the last ten years, the resolution argued, other countries from Southeast Asia are sending more than triple the Philippines’ number of students for foreign studies. Vietnam, for example, had more than 60,000 students abroad in 2016. 

Topics: “pensionado system" , Fidel Nograles , House of Representatives , Filipino scientists
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