From：Ms. Heart Dino
According to United Nations, education is one of the most powerful instruments to eradicate poverty, hence has a fundamental role to play in personal and social development. Right to education is basic in improving quality of life as it capacitates an individual to realize his/her full potentials and skills to become a productive member of a society, and is therefore one of the core agenda of youth activists in the Philippines.
But the realization of these objectives is subject to the recognition of proper policies and strategies for education. The Philippine education system is in a deep crisis having problems from basic level to higher education. Implementing policies in the system are in bounds of neoliberal globalization and state strategies for education constantly change as global demand for workers changes. This results to a highly deregulated system of market-driven education.
That the state of Philippine education is dismal is an understatement. For one, there is a continuing rise in the number of out-of-school youth. Among others, shortages in classrooms, lack of adequate facilities, and overworked and underpaid teachers all paint a bitter picture which do not reflect our professed aspiration of providing quality and accessible education.
The current Aquino administration had pursued certain reforms to address the deteriorating quality of the Philippine education system, but we need a more holistic solution that will address not only a particular issue but each perennial problem of the education system.
Start of the K to 12 Basic Education Program
Academic year 2013-2014 marks the start of the K to 12 Basic Education Program, which primarily adds kindergarten and an additional two (2) years of secondary education following a K-6-4-2 model. This is the flagship reform strategy of the Department of Education [DepEd] to address the poor quality of education primarily in basic level, as shown in the low achievement scores of Filipino students in the National Achievement Test (NAT), not even have met the National Performance Standard of 75%. The strategy is also to compare to international standards of at least twelve years of basic education.
Young progressives in the Philippines welcome this development. The program seeks to introduce reforms in the basic education curriculum and enhance the transition management from basic education to employment and from basic education to higher education.
However, additional two years does not necessary result in better instruction and performance of students. It must be made clear that this change in curriculum and structure of basic level will be useless without corresponding improvements in other aspects of the education system. In the absence of innovative ways of dealing with perennial problems such as, among others, classroom shortages, undermanned schools, decline in teaching competence, and dearth of facilities necessary for proper instruction, adding more years may only serve to worsen the Philippine education situation.
Tuition and Other Fee Increases
Despite the call of activists for a tuition increase moratorium, the country’s Commission on Higher Education [CHED] has recently approved the application of more than 300 private higher educational institutions for tuition and other fee increase for the academic year 2013-2014. The increase would necessary be of burden to the parents and students, making tertiary level more inaccessible to millions of youth in the country, which will result to higher drop-out rates and increased number of out of school youth. This is a clear manifestation that Philippine government fails to implement policies that will ensure accessibility and affordability in higher education institutions.
The CHED memorandum no 3 series of 2012 entitled Enhanced Policies, Guidelines and Procedures governing increases in Tuition and Other school fees, introduction of new fees and for other purposes has a lot of flaws and lacks of implementation guidelines making it useless to police dubious fees and bogus consultations. The memorandum further enhances the government premise of relegating education to the private sector.
Students’ Rights as basic Human Rights
Discrimination compromises the quality of appreciation of education of students. Even today there are recorded instances of violations against students’ rights and welfare. Students who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, more often than not, are bullied and discriminated inside the campus. In many private schools, students who are discovered to be pregnant and unmarried are immediately expelled. Students are also deprived of their right to participate in any decision-making process in the school, particularly, when it comes to raising tuition and other fees.
The advocacy of students’ rights and welfare has been a longstanding struggle for the Philippine student movement. Given the lack of a clear and comprehensive national policy guaranteeing the realization of the full potential of students, numerous violations against the young Filipino scholars are still continually being committed.
As students and citizens that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution, we cannot let our liberties end upon stepping into the halls of our academic institutions. Beyond the struggle for a higher budget or better facilities, we have to recognize that quality education includes fostering a conducive environment where students are free to excel without the fear of discrimination or repression.
Pending in the Philippine Congress for more than a decade now is the Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill, which is met with much opposition from conservatives and private school owners. The passage of this bill into law would ensure the protection of students’ civil and political liberties within and outside the campuses and also ensure that academic institutions are able to mold tomorrow’s Filipinos into citizens capable of true nation building.
On Education Spending
The 2013 budget proposed by the Aquino administration paints a similar bleak picture for the education sector. The Department of Education will get P292.7B, up by 22.6% from last year’s education budget. This is in line with the current government’s call for improved public school education in the country. Budget for state universities and colleges also increased, from P21.9B to P34.9B this year.
Young Filipino progressives, of course, welcome the Increases in the education budget. However, it is not debatable that Philippine government spending on education sector is still below the international standard pegged by the Delors Commission of the UNESCO at 6% of the GNP.
Education underspending is not part of a just and progressive education system. As progressives, we believe that appropriate budget for education should be allocated as this is an essential factor in ensuring better instruction, up-to-date facilities and materials, thus improved quality of education. Achievement of a quality, relevant and accessible education is not possible without sufficient support from the government.
Education is a right
There is a need for the government to go back to the premise that education is first and foremost a state responsibility. The role of young progressives in the country is to make sure that this point is not muddled in the on-going crises within the education system, which could lead to desperation and compromise.
Ms. Heart Dino
HEART DINO is the current Chairperson of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines [SCAP], the largest student council and student political party formation in the country. SCAP is an activist and feminist organization that has been pushing for reforms in the education sector. Ms. Dino is also immediate past and first transgender student council Chairperson of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.