Every year, Filipino students face the arrival of June with a sense of trepidation. Although June represents the start of another year of learning, it also means another year of paying increasingly high tuition fees.
A total of 282 college-level schools in the Philippines are set to increase tuition this year. This is a huge number, constituting 15% of 1,792 colleges and universities in the Philippines. 69 colleges are expected to increase fees in Metro Manila alone. Last year, 18 schools increased their fees in Central Visayas . Another 18 schools will be joining them this year. Some of the increases reach as high as 25 %.
In basic education, there are 168 elementary and high schools poised to increase their tuition just in Metro Manila. 30 schools more schools have pending tuition increase requests with the Departmenf of Education (DepEd)
In response, lawmakers have proposed to increase the tuition subsidy for private school transferees. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), however, claims it can only “monitor” fee increases. This is clear evidence that the government cannot regulate the market system that underpins our educational system. If we, as a people, want to prove that we are serious about regulating the power of private schools, we would do more than monitor. For one, immediate passage and subsequent implementation of a Students Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Act that would curb the abuse of powers of school administrators.
Rather than attempting to strengthen a system driven by markets, the government must take a more direct hand in education of its citizens. We cannot simply allow education be treated as a commodity or service subject to the market. Education is not a product, it is a right. Tighter regulation is the only way it can guarantee a better future for the youth and the country as a whole.
We cannot blame the youth if their perception is that education has become a franchise of the few rather than a right of all. This is especially true when the current trend in education is towards satisfying the needs of the market instead of looking at it as necessary for development of both the country and the individual, and when we have reduced it to being a simple “contractual relationship” between student and school instead of treating it as an important duty in molding responsible and capable citizens.
We see that the solution is an increase in subsidy for public education, from basic to tertiary. Currently, mechanisms like the Automated Appropriations Act allow for a budget geared more towards debt servicing diverting funds away from more important needs like education. Economists have argued investing 6% of our GNP in education would help create the kind of robust economy and a better strategy to automatic debt payment. What happens instead is education must compete with other equally important budget allocations such as healthcare, poverty alleviation measures, and others. Simply put, payment of debt has become a bigger priority than educating our youth. But this kind of strategy neglects the fact that education is the best long-term economic strategy. The current system ought to be scrapped to give our youth a fighting chance: a fighting chance against poverty and ignorance by making education a right enjoyed by all.
In Akbayan Youth, we see this as our agenda of hope. We believe that as a matter of principle our students must have access to quality education. We can no longer afford as a country, an education system that is favorable to the haves and out of reach to most Filipinos. The youth can no longer afford millions of school dropouts while having to take the pay the price of other policy mistakes not just in education. Filipino students have long been the bearers of positive change in our country since the time of Rizal, but this might change if our youth have nothing to hope for the future. This June, we join the millions of Filipino students in their battle for their future. We join them in fighting for quality and accessible education. Scrap the Automatic Appropriations Act! Increase public investment and regulation in education! Pass the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) bill now!###
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