Students denounce tuition hikes, full implementation of K-12 program
In time for the first day of school year 2013-2014, student groups led by Kabataan Partylist, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan, and other formations stormed the offices of the Department of Education-National Capital Region (DepEd-NCR) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in separate mobilizations today.
At half past nine in the morning, student formations picketed in front of DepEd-NCR Office along Misamis Street, Quezon City, a few yards away from SM North EDSA. The students slammed the unabated tuition increases in private grade schools and high schools in the country and the “additional burden” brought about by the implementation of the K-12 program.
“As another school year begins, millions of students are to return to their schools only to find the same old education problems brought about by years of underfunding for education – shortages in facilities, skyrocketing matriculation, and for students in basic education, additional burden through the full-blown implementation of the K-12 program,” said Kabataan Partylist President Terry Ridon.
Last May 15, President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act No. 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (K-12 Law), which introduces two additional years in secondary education and makes Kindergarten mandatory.
“Touted by the government as a solution to the country’s ailing basic education system, the K-12 program only adds additional burden to millions of Filipino families. Essentially, it does not address existing problems in the basic public education system in the country such as shortages in rooms, educational materials, and other facilities and equipment, underfunding, the orientation of the education system, and access,” said NUSP President Victor Villanueva.
According to government statistics, for the incoming school year, the country still lacks 47,584 teachers, 19,579 classrooms, 60 million textbooks, 2.5 million chairs, and 80,937 water and sanitation facilities.
“From the data of shortages alone, we can clearly see that the government is not ready to implement K-12, and the program – which focuses on producing a surplus labor force to feed the global need for cheap labor – will not only inflict harm to students and families but would also result into a massive logistical mess,” Villanueva said.
“With RA 10533 signed into law, basic education institutions will be compelled to follow the new program, despite the fact that there has been no concrete scientific evaluation of the program’s efficiency and effectiveness after its first year of implementation. In fact, the curriculum for Grade 2 has just been finished and will be haphazardly implemented this school year without any proper assessment,” said outgoing Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, who was one of the few congressmen who opposed the passage of the K-12 Law in the 15th Congress.
First day hike
Meanwhile, student groups also denounced DepEd’s approval of tuition increases in 1,144 private basic education schools for the incoming school year.
“The government tries to cover up the deregulated nature of the basic education system by saying that parents always have the option to enrol their students to public schools, where education should supposedly be free. Yet this reasoning does not answer the fundamental issue of having schools that charge a fortune for something that should supposedly be free,” Villanueva said.
Ridon, meanwhile, criticized DepEd’s Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE), which will be given a whopping P7-billion budget this year, a marked increase from the P6.3-billion GASTPE budget in 2012.
“DepEd says that GASTPE is the solution for families who want to enrol their children to private schools but cannot afford the tuition. We have two main points of contention against this – first, the solution to ease access in private institutions does not lie in providing dole-out funds that don’t even suffice to cover full matriculation. Rather, the solution is to strictly regulate tuition to ensure that tuition rates in private schools remain reasonable and affordable,” the youth lawyer said.
Ridon continued, “Second, GASTPE is essentially a program that siphons valuable funding that could have gone to public schools into the pockets of private school owners.”
Meanwhile, at around 2:00 p.m., student groups also stormed the CHED main office in Diliman to protest the approval of new and higher rates in 354 colleges and universities nationwide.
“Despite clear opposition from student groups, and the filing of complaints regarding bogus tuition hike consultations, CHED still approved tuition hikes for 354 schools, which is more than the 222 schools it allowed to increase tuition the previous year,” Villanueva said.
“By approving these hikes, CHED has once again showed how it serves as a mere stamp pad for pre-approved hikes. And that’s the same reason why we decided to elevate this issue to the Supreme Court,” Ridon said.
On May 29, Kabataan Partylist along with other youth formations and students filed GR. No. 207119, which seeks to stop all tuition increases in tertiary schools. Specifically, the petition asks the high court to issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the approved hikes, and invalidate all previous hikes by virtue of violating the “reasonable regulation and supervision” clause stipulated in Article XIV Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution.
“The pending petition is one way to fight against the deregulated nature of education in the country. But at the end of the day, mobilizations such as the one we’re holding today, play important roles. If students all over the country will jointly oppose such policies, the government will be compelled to take action,” Ridon ended.###