Towards a Quality, Relevant, and Accessible Education
(This is a statement delivered at “Outrage 4: Reproving Illiteracy and the Underinvestment in Education,” a benefit party of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance Student Council.)
A prerequisite in the attainment of academic excellence, and social justice and progress is a well-functioning educational system. As the society’s greatest equalizer, education provides equal opportunities for all regardless of one’s race, gender, religion, ethno-linguistic origin and social status. And as a vehicle for nation-building, education inculcates critical and creative thinking, and imbibes nationalism and patriotism to young Filipinos. It is with these reasons that the State is constitutionally-mandated to provide quality, relevant, and accessible education to the youth of our nation.
Is this, however, the path we are traversing right now?
Last year, President Benigno S. Aquino III slashed the budget of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) for 2011 by 1.7% (or ₱800 million) from its budget for 2010, putting on hold the construction of new buildings and facilities and the purchase of new equipment. The Commission on Higher Education suffered a bigger cut at ₱1.7 billion, or 33.24% lower from 2010’s, putting the student and faculty scholarship programs of the Commission in jeopardy.
While ALYANSA has been actively working for the passage of the Students’ Rights and Welfare Bill in Congress that guarantees the delivery of adequate academic facilities and welfare services, the education sector’s measly budget will never be enough to build new classrooms, buy quality and error-free books, train competent teachers, and provide welfare services for all students.
This is not the path that we should be traversing as a nation.
Together with our national networks, ALYANSA has been pushing for a higher budget for the whole education sector. The Six Will Fix, a campaign by the Youth Against Debt Coalition or YAD (of which ALYANSA is a member), calls for the enactment of a law that will automatically appropriate budget for education equating to 6% of the Gross National Product (GNP).
Last September 27, 2010, ALYANSA joined YAD in a protest action against the decrease in the budget of SUCs and CHED outside the Batasan Pambansa, and lobbied with members of the House of Representatives. Our call garnered the support of some lawmakers, including Compostela Valley Rep. Maricar Zamora-Apsay who pledged her support to our cause through a formal communication. On November 25, 2010, members of ALYANSA participated in the Sectoral Regents-led strike against the cut in the 2011 UP budget, and lobbied inside the Senate of the Philippines.
In the years to come, ALYANSA will continue to encourage students to be informed and involved on the issue of the education budget through the BUDGET WATCH. Through engaging means such as forums, lobbying activities and mass actions, we will provide avenues where the students can exert influence on the government’s policy formulation – in reviewing relevant government policies and proposing alternatives with regard to the issue of the education budget.
An investment to education is also an investment to our country’s future. ALYANSA enjoins the NCPAG Student Council, the NCPAG community, and every Iskolar para sa Bayan in securing quality, relevant, and accessible education for every Filipino.