“Coupled with the implementation of the K-12 program – which has been signed into law despite the opposition by teachers, parents and students – the new spate of tuition increases in basic education will surely aggravate the education crisis in the country.” – Kabataan Partylist
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Youth groups Kabataan Partylist and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) denounced the approval of tuition increases in 343 colleges and universities and 260 elementary and secondary schools all over the country. Coupled with the full implementation of the K to 12 program, which has recently been signed into law, the groups said, this would worsen the education crisis in the country.
One hundred and eighty two elementary schools and 78 secondary schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) alone was allowed by the DepEd to increase their tuition by six to 10 percent or by P3,000 ($71.89) to P5,000 ($119.82) for this academic year.
The 343 colleges and universities that had their petition for tuition increase approved by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) surpassed last year’s 222 colleges and universities. According to CHED, the average increase this year is 8.3 percent or about P40 ($.96) per unit.
“The youth will not be silent on this fundamental issue of students. We denounce in the strongest possible terms the approval of unjustified fee increases in schools all over the country. The speedy approval of tuition hikes, despite the clear opposition of student groups, clearly illustrates the deregulated nature of education in the country in all levels,” said lawyer and Kabataan Partylist president, Terry Ridon.
Ridon added, “Coupled with the implementation of the K-12 program – which has been signed into law despite the opposition by teachers, parents and students – the new spate of tuition increases in basic education will surely aggravate the education crisis in the country,” Ridon said.
Ridon pointed out that many parents are forced to enroll their children to private schools to escape the horrors of public schools, such as the lack of facilities and various shortages. He said if elementary and secondary institutions will continue to increase tuition, students will again be forced to return to public schools, or even drop out of school.
France Castro, second nominee of ACT Teachers’ Party said the approval of tuition increases would further deny students their right to education. She criticized the government for turning a blind eye on the hardships of parents and approving the tuition increases with haste.
“The government has been denying our children quality education, and even further denying them by approving tuition increases, while international law provides that education should be free at least in primary and secondary schools,” said Castro in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Castro added that tuition increases would worsen the existing shortages in public schools, as many more students will likely transfer from private to public schools.
Meanwhile, the DedEd’s program called the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education or Gastpe program provides P10,000 ($293.64) grants to needy students in the NCR and P6,000 ($143.78) in the regions as aid for their tuition in private schools.
Ridon said that even with the program, parents would still have to shoulder the remaining costs, which, in some schools, amount to over P50,000 ($1,198.20).
“The problem with Gastpe is that it doesn’t actually relieve students and their families of the burden of paying high tuition and other fees. Rather, it serves as a business guarantee for private school owners. Imagine the government using almost P4 billion ($96 million) worth of taxpayer’s money just to guarantee the profits of private schools. Why not realign that budget to improve public schools instead?” Ridon pointed out.
The Gastpe program’s objective is also to reduce the class size or decongest public schools. However, Castro said, the approved tuition increase in private schools goes against the objective of decongesting public schools .
“We think that the Gastpe program has no effect in terms of decongesting public schools,” Castro said. She added that the DepEd has no monitoring mechanism that will prove that public high schools are being decongested through the program. She also added that enrollees for private and public schools increase by at least two percent every year.
Castro also raised questions regarding how the funds are being used by private schools. “The DepEd has no report on what the Gastpe program has achieved? Does it achieve its objectives? Private education institutions should also report how they spend the funds for the said program. Do they really spend it for the students’ tuition? Or do they use it for other purposes?”
Like Ridon, Castro said it is better to spend the funds allotted for Gastpe grants to the fill in the shortages in schools, chairs and other needs of the public school system, which, in the long term, will help more students.
Meanwhile, DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said, in a news report, that the department allowed schools to increase fees on condition that 70 percent of the increase will go to teachers’ salaries, while the remaining 30 percent will be allotted for the improvement of facilities. Umali said they will closely monitor how the money generated by the increases will be spent by private schools.
ACT Teachers’ Party Rep. Antonio Tinio said the DepEd should ensure that these private schools will comply with the DepEd requirement that 70 percent of the tuition increase should go to teachers’ salaries and benefits, 20 percent to the improvement of facilities and 10 percent as profit.
“Let’s not forget that, in private schools, the salaries of teachers and employees are sourced from tuition fees. Unfortunately, the DepEd’s capacity to monitor compliance is limited, and there are cases where the schools don’t implement the sharing. Such schools should be penalized by the DepEd,” said Tinio in a statement sent to Bulatlat.com.
Meanwhile, Anakbayan slammed Senator-elect Bam Aquino for his statement that tuition increases are inevitable but have to be justified. In a statement the youth group called the younger Aquino a “typical idiotic Aquino.”
“Barely two months ago, a student of the University of the Philippines committed suicide because her parents couldn’t afford the tuition in a state university. Now we have this Aquino telling us that tuition hikes are ‘inevitable’? Why did he become a senator if he is useless? Why do we have a Ched or even a government if they cannot do anything for our welfare?,” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of Anakbayan.
The youth leader pointed out that with majority of Filipino families not earning enough, and the prices of basic goods and services continuing to rise, there is no such thing as a ‘justified’ increase.
“True to the tradition of members of the Aquino clan entering the government with zero qualifications, lacking competence, and only having their surname to their credit, Bam Aquino has shown his complete and total ignorance on the plight of Filipino youths and students,” Crisostomo said.
Youth groups reiterated their call to the government for a nationwide tuition moratorium and for the passage of a stricter tuition regulation law.
“Education is a right that should not be taken away from our youth just because of financial constraints. Yet with the government continuing to be in cahoots with private firms to deprive us of this basic right, the youth will also intensify the fight for affordable and accessible education,” Ridon added.