Education stakeholders push free higher education

Published June 5, 2018, 4:54 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Merlina Malipot

As the new school year opens, education stakeholders urged the government to “act swiftly and decisively” on certain issues involving the education sector.

(Pixabay/ Manila Bulletin)
(Pixabay/ Manila Bulletin)

In a “Manifesto of Unity for Education,” Filipino youth, students, parents, faculty, academic, and non-academic personnel from various schools, colleges, universities, and communities strongly demanded the Duterte administration—along with all the relevant branches of government — to address the issues that concern the country’s education system.

In the said manifesto signed by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), ACT Partylist, League of Filipino Students (LFS), National Union of Students of the Philippine (NUS) and other youth groups, they call on the administration to fully implement free education without delays and preconditions; allocate higher state subsidy to public tertiary education; and “assess and stop” the implementation of the K to 12 program.

In particular, the groups urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to ensure the Free Higher Education law should be fully implemented without collection of fees, no preconditions and without delays.

“On top of the already burdensome tuition, the rampant collection of redundant, exorbitant and dubious ‘other school fees’ (OSFs) represent a heavy woe to students,” the manifesto stated. “Free education means not a single peso should be collected from students,” they added. Thus, a “no collection policy” of tuition and all other school fees “must be in place” however, they noted that “obtaining funds from students in support of campus press and representation through their duly-elected councils must continue.”

The manifesto also hit CHED’s announcement of the “Return Service System” embedded in the implementing rules and regulations of the Free High Education law. “For free education, must be scrapped, as it undermines the right to education,” they said. Likewise, they furthered that there should be “no delays” in the budgetary support for education.

To “uphold the public character of all government-funded tertiary education institutions,” the manifesto stated that “a substantial increase in state subsidy must be allotted to support capital improvement, and faculty development necessary to expand operations, and cater more students.”

Labeling it as the “worst neoliberal attack” on Philippine education, the groups called for the assessment of the K to 12 Program and “stop” its implementation. “The added two years in basic education guarantee the capitalist-educators more profit from private high schools, and worsen the already substandard school facilities and equipment in public high schools,” they said. “As this year marks the first batch of the K-12 graduates, there is no bright future that awaits them,” they added.

The manifesto also called for the junking of the TRAIN law for only causing “the increases in the prices of basic commodities, school supplies, utilities, and oil, it also has been used as justification by schools to increase tuition and OSF.” They also urged the government to “uphold democratic rights and welfare” of student councils, campus press, faculty union, and campus sectoral organizations.

“It is high time for the government to backpedal on these policies that have kept millions of Filipinos out of school, and fulfill its constitutional obligation to ensure that quality education is accessible at all levels,” they ended.​