(Privilege Speech of Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino)

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues:

As I speak today, preparations and enrolment for the coming school year are already in progress. The Department of Education once again adopted a “business-as-usual” attitude in explaining preparations for the school opening. DepEd claims the government is prepared for the school opening but the dismal state of classrooms and facilities and the severe shortage of teachers in public elementary and high schools nationwide say otherwise.

Days from now, we expect the Commission on Higher Education to do the same routine of back-to-school lip service to cover up for its negligence and apparent gross failure to regulate unabated school fee hikes and its conspiracy with some school owners.

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of fellow young Filipinos who are being robbed of their right to education and their future.

When classes open in June, many school-age children and youth will not be in school.

I am alarmed over the sharp decline in the preliminary enrolment figures for the current school year. This highlights the huge disparity between the increasing cost of education in the country and the financial capacity of Filipino families to send their children to school.

A study of the Department of Education shows that 96.77 percent of elementary school-age children go to school while 66.06 percent of high school-age teenagers go to secondary school.

But the same report reveals that for every 100 students who enroll in the 1st grade, 33 drop out before reaching Grade 5 and 31 out of 100 high school freshmen drop out before reaching their senior year. The trend for the past ten years show that for every 10 pupils who enroll in grade school, only 7 graduate.

Government statistics show that for the past years there was a steady increase in total school enrollment. True. But there were also an increasing proportion of elementary school-age children who remained out of school, based on the most recent Philippine assessment report on the Millennium Development Goals.

In school year 2005-2006, almost 65 percent of six-year old children did not begin their primary education on time. The cohort survival rate was placed at 76 percent in 2001 but it went down to 70 percent in 2006. The completion rate was 75 percent in 2001 but it also went down to 68 percent in the same period. The drop-out rate and repetition rate also deteriorated in the same report.

Students drop out because of poverty. While basic education is free, many poor families are unable to finance the auxiliary school needs of their children, which, according to our computation would cost around P15,000 to P20,000 per student.

Mr. Speaker, saan naman kukuhanin ng ating mga estudyante at kanilang mga magulang ang halagang ito gayong wala na halos makain sa pang-araw-araw?

The 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FEIS) reveal how Filipinos now allocate less for their household education spending.

Average spending on school fees, books and supplies fell to 1.3 percent from 2.9 percent between 2003 and 2006. Before the turn of the millennium, the share of educational expenses had been gradually increasing.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues, most Filipino families now have to make a choice between sending their children to school and spending their meager income on food in order to survive. Poverty and government neglect have made education a luxury to many of our countrymen.

The lower household spending on schooling, aggravated by price hikes in basic commodities, school fee increases, stagnant wage levels and mass lay-offs, further inflates the number of school dropouts and out of school youth this year.

On the other hand, many of those who managed to reach college are also doomed to drop out because of the high cost of private tertiary education and limited slots in poorly-funded state schools.

A study of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-National Commission in the Philippines shows that the cohort survival rate from first to fourth year college was only 22 percent. College dropout rate, on the other hand, was pegged at 73 percent.

Under the Arroyo administration, the national average tuition rate has increased by as much as 89.39 percent, from P230.79 in school year 2001-2002 to P437.10 last school year. The National Capital Region average rate, on the other hand, went up by a whopping 94.54 percent, from P439.59 to P855.20 in the same period.

This year, private schools are set to increase tuition and miscellaneous fees, contrary to CHED’s claims.

These are some of the schools in NCR which are set to increase their tuition this coming school year based on the monitoring of the National Union of Students of the Philippines: Lyceum of the Philippines, 5-percent increase in tuition and another 5-percent increase in miscellaneous fees; University of the East, 5-percent tuition increase; Far Eastern University, 6-percent tuition increase; San Juan de Letran College, 10-percent tuition increase.

Also included in the NUSP list are the Philippine School of Business and Arts, 15-percent tuition increase; San Beda College, 20-percent tuition increase; University of Santo Tomas (UST), 7-percent tuition increase to incoming First and Third Year students and 8.52-percent tuition increase to incoming 4th year students.

There’s nothing else to blame but the Education Act of 1982 for the staggering tuition hikes in the last two decades. By giving school owners a free hand in determining tuition rate, the Education Act effectively bestowed private schools limitless powers.

Batas Pambansa No. 232, otherwise known as the Education Act of 1982, laid down the guidelines and regulations governing the collection and application of tuition and other fees by all educational institutions. In particular, Section 42 gives private schools a free hand in determining tuition rates thus allowing private schools to increase the fee every school year.

The deregulated environment set by the Act ensures the wholesale commodification of a fast-expanding private tertiary education. It is interesting to note, for instance, Mr. Speaker, how our biggest private tertiary education institutions such as the Mapua Institute of Technology, Centro Escolar University, University of the East and University of Perpetual Health-Rizal figure in the top 1000 corporations in the world. For the past six years, these institutions have raked in P15.43 billion ($337,932,554) in gross revenues and P3.45 billion ($75,558,475) in net income. And yet administrations and owners of these schools never fail to hike their tuition fees annually.

Reports culled by NUSP and Kabataan Party-list, likewise, point to another trend in fee increases in private schools. School owners and administrators are raking in bigger profits without actually raising tuition.

Schools are foregoing tuition increases but they have been bloating miscellaneous fees which are mostly questionable. Unlike tuition, miscellaneous fee hikes have remained unchecked for the last few years. This explains why school owners are able to avoid tuition hikes but still manage to rake in bigger profits annually.

Such tactic has proven to be very profitable to school owners. Unlike tuition, miscellaneous fee of all sorts are not included in the tuition increase consultations provided under CHED Memorandum No. 13, the guidelines for tuition hike applications, which was recently re-implemented following the lifting of the tuition cap.

Some of the dubious fees being collected in private schools are energy fee, development fee, accreditation fee, athletics fee, internet fee, insurance fee and air-condition fee.

Even disbursements for capital expenditures and operating expenses which supposedly are already included in the basic tuition are being charged to students in the form of other miscellaneous fees like the energy fee and the development fee. Some school administrators claim that the energy fee is for the purchase of new air-conditioning units while the development fee is for the construction of new buildings and improvement of other facilities.

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, these fees are not only questionable, they are superfluous. School owners are becoming more creative in inventing new fees to justify their lust for profit.

Some of the most absurd fees being collected are the postal fee, insurance fee, Smart fee and copier fee in AMA Computer University; power charge fee in Trinity University of Asia; Land Infrastructure Maintenance and Acquisition Development fee in the University of the Cordilleras; accreditation fee in Technological Institute of the Philippine; and pre-registration fee in Aquinas University in Albay.

The Philippine Maritime Institute is charging students with a Safety on Land and Seas fee worth P5,000 to P6,000 while the University of the East in Manila is charging cultural fee amounting to P162 and Internet fee of P976.

The Asian School of Arts and Sciences is collecting P250 for athletic fee even if the school doesn’t have a varsity team.

The rising cost of education in private schools has prompted a significant number of college students to transfer to state schools. In 1980, only 10 percent of college students were studying in state schools. By 1994, the number went up to 21 percent and at present already accounts for almost 40 percent of tertiary population.

But many of these transferees will find themselves dropping out of college. The problem, Mr. Speaker, even state schools are not accessible as they should be.

State schools are plagued by similar problems. Not only are they few now and their enrolment quotas limited, they are also haunted by increases in tuition and other fees thus forcing many state scholars to leave.

In 2007, the 300 percent tuition hike in the University of the Philippines led to a significant decline in the freshman enrollment in several course offerings. The Office of the Student Regent pegged the no-show rate or the number of UPCAT passers who did not enroll at 20 to 40 percent.

Recently, the UP Board of Regents has also approved a chain of tuition fee increases for its graduate school programs. The increases are overwhelming, ranging from an increase from P300-P500 to P2000-P2500 per unit.

Another state school, the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) in Manila experienced a sharp decline in enrollment due to tuition fee hikes. Initial enrollment reports show that more than half of the 13,000 strong student population failed to enroll last school year. Only 6,000 enrolled and most of them only made partial payments. The EARIST administration recently increased tuition by almost 600 percent, from 15 pesos per unit to 100 pesos.

The spate of tuition and other fee increases in state schools is the cornerstone of the Arroyo government’s Long Term Higher Education Development Plan (LTHEDP) which seeks to prepare tertiary education for the “knowledge-based economy” under the aegis of “borderless education. Under the LTHEDP, 70 percent of SUCs should have been charging tuition fees equivalent to that of their private counterparts by 2010.

The current crisis in public tertiary education should be blamed on government’s policy of rationalization. The policy allows state schools to be treated no longer as national agencies performing socially-oriented activities and hence entitled to government subsidy, but as income-earning entities.

This further translates into incentives for money-making tertiary schools, thereby fully encouraging the commercialization of education. The rationalization policy has ensured corporate dominance even in public education.

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, education is an avowed priority of the State but under the present administration, like its predecessors, it does not draw an ounce of sympathy from the authorities.

The government has been formulating several education policies and programs with the aim of improving the quality of education in the country but it is missing the most important and decisive factor to meet this goal – spending more on education. Unfortunately, government spending on education has been the complete opposite in the past years.

The Philippine government spent a measly 2.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product on public educational institutions in 2007. This pales in comparison to its neighboring countries Malaysia with 6.2 percent and Thailand with 4.2 percent. Laos even spent more at 3.0 percent. The minimum prescribed standard for education spending set by UNESCO is 6 percent of a country’s GDP.

Mr. Speaker, mga kapwa mambabatas, nakapagtataka’t mayroong krisis sa edukasyon. Sabi ng ating magulang, ang kanilang pamana sa atin ay magandang edukasyon. Banggit ng ating mga guro, edukasyon ang susi sa kaunlaran. Tuwing eleksiyon halos lahat ng mga pulitiko ay edukasyon ang kanilang nangungunang plataporma. Kapag pinag-uusapan ang pambansang badyet, o pork barrel, laging palusot ng gobyerno at mga mambabatas na edukasyon daw ang kanilang pangunahing prayoridad.

Kinikilala ng Saligang Batas, Mr. Speaker, ang mahalagang papel ng kabataan sa pag-unlad ng lipunan. Itinatalaga sa Artikulo IV Seksiyon I ng 1986 Konstitusyon na “dapat pangalagaan ng Estado ang karapatan ng lahat ng mamamayan sa mahusay na edukasyon sa lahat ng antas at dapat magsagawa ng angkop na mga hakbang upang matamo ng lahat ang gayong edukasyon.” Dapat ay bigyan din ng pinakamataas na prayoridad ng pamahalaan ang edukasyon.

Pero bakit sa kabila ng abot-langit na pagtatangi sa edukasyon, bakit marami ang di nakakapag-aral? Bakit hindi naglalaan ng sapat na badyet ang pamahalaan para rito? Bakit mababa pa rin ang kalidad ng pag-aaral sa bansa? Ano itong nirereklamong kakapusan ng edukasyon na tugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating lipunan? Bakit may mga Julie Albior, Flores Biwang at Marianette Amper na lumiliban sa mga eskuwelahan?

Pangunahing pananagutan ni kasalukuyang pamahalaan ang trahedyang kinahaharap ng sektor ng edukasyon. Dahil sa taunang pagkaltas ng badyet ng mga eskuwelahan at ang pagbibigay ni Gng. Arroyo ng laya sa mga pribadong paaralan na maningil ng matataas na matrikula, dumami ang mga kabataang hindi makatuntong sa kolehiyo.

Mr. Speaker, mga kapwa mambabatas, ito ba ang klase ng pamana na ibibigay ng kasalukuyang gobyerno sa aming mga kabataan? Ito ba ang pamanang nais nating ibigay, mga miyembro ng kasalukuyang Kongreso, sa ating mga anak at sa mga susunod na henerasyon ng kabataang Pilipino?

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, education is the foundation upon which we will build our country. It serves as the means to bring about the desired change in society, to develop a generation of virtuous individuals and thus contribute to the development of good human beings. How much we invest on the education of the youth today will determine the kind of nation we will become in the future.

Unless the government reverses its present education policies and its thrust to hand over tertiary education to the private sector and until it flexes its muscles to stop the unabated hikes in tuition and other fees, it will certainly bury the confidence, hopes and great faith of the Filipino youth and the nation for a brighter future ahead.

Thank you Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues.

Mong Palatino

Activist, blogger, and political journalist. Visit him at mongpalatino.com or email him at mongpalatino[at]gmail[dot]com.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Tuloy mo lang iyan, Kongresman Mong! Wala tayong aasahan ke GMA na iprayoridad ang edukasyon dahil nais nilang manatili sa ganitong estado ang mamamayan para patuloy na umasa sa mga ambon ng biyaya mula sa mga pulitiko pag panahon ng eleksyon.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.