“We call for the abrogation of neoliberal policies on education, which have turned even public schools into moneymaking ventures in collusion with the World Bank and other foreign entities.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressive youth groups criticized the Duterte administration’s “free tuition policy (FTP).” They said it has turned out to be just what they had feared: a big fat lie.
Kabataan Partylist and Anakbayan said that instead of giving universal access to tertiary education, the government would implement a nationwide socialized tuition scheme similar to that being implemented system-wide in the University of the Philippines (UP). They said this would rely on scholarships and prioritization schemes, which will still edge out the poor majority.
Lashing out at the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which released on April 20 the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) for Free Tuition 2017, the youth groups said the Duterte administration has failed to veer away from neoliberal policies of privatization and commercialization of education.
“It took the CHED-DBM almost six months to put their brains together to think of an ingenious way of following the President’s order while upholding the facade that they are for ‘free’ education. It doesn’t need a genius, however, to uncover their lies,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago in a statement.
Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo called the IRR “a re-hash of UP’s much-hated socialized tuition scam.”
In line with Duterte’s order in 2016 to prioritize “financially-disadvantaged but academically-able students,” the guidelines provide that a P15,000-tuition subsidy would be given to students in SUCs who are already under Ched’s Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAP) and students who are members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and included in the Listahanan 2.0, a database that include the estimated per capita household income.
Other priority students are: graduating students with one semester or one academic year remaining, regardless of household per capita income; and non-graduating students ranked according to their per capita household income based on submitted documents of proof of income.
The youth groups have been calling for free tuition for all Filipino youth. With Ched and DBM guidelines, not all enrollees in SUCs will benefit from the free tuition policy.
“By subjecting free tuition policy to 4Ps, it will only serve to justify this flawed poverty alleviation measure and further absolve the government from resolving the roots of poverty, in this case, the lack of education of its citizens,” said Kabataan Party Rep. Sarah Elago.
She added that 4Ps, without the context of national industrialization and rural development, among others will only “paint the illusion that people get by, while failing to breach the chains of social inequality.”
‘Edging out the poor’
Crisostomo slammed the guidelines for actually discriminating against poor students “who will have a harder time complying with various requisites just to prove that they are not well off.”
“UP’s very experience shows that ‘socialized tuition’ in the guise of helping poor but deserving students has only subjected them to commercialization schemes,” said Crisostomo.
Crisostomo said UP’s Socialized Tuition System (STS) has resulted to marked increase of students applying for loans, and three out of four students who are appealing for lower bracketing or tuition.
Elago said such requirement will “edge out the poor.” She also warned of potential hike in other school fees as the FTP only covers tuition. Elago said for 2017, DBM estimates a total collection of other school fees amounting to P4.47 billion ($89.8 million). “This figure might go up as we expect SUCs to offset profit loses that will be incurred from the implementation of the policy,” Elago added.
Consistent with neoliberal policies
“In the guise of ‘social justice’ and ‘prioritizing the poor,’ the IRR has fine-tuned ‘free tuition’ to be consistent with the current neoliberal policies,” said Elago. She warned that the policy will set the pretext for future legislative efforts. The Senate has approved Senate Bill 1304, while the House of Representatives is set to pass a similar bill in May, said Elago.
Kabataan Partylist has filed the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Bill, or House Bill 4800, which abolishes the tuition system, re-admits dropouts and gives special grant for financially-disadvantaged students in SUCs and local state universities.
“We call for the abrogation of neoliberal policies on education, which have turned even public schools into moneymaking ventures in collusion with the World Bank and other foreign entities. Education is supposed to be a right regardless of one’s ability to pay,” said Elago.
Anakbayan called on the Filipino youth to continue to fight for free education for all, and junk the neoliberal policies on education such as Education Deregulation Act of 1982 and Higher Education Act of 1997.