[From the web] We need genuine universal quality education, not your paltry charity! | SPARK

We need genuine universal quality education, not your paltry charity!

Last week, Senator Kiko Pangilinan filed Senate Bill 2495, or the “Bawat Pamilya May College Gradweyt Act.” The bill is meant as an amendment to the previous R.A. 10931, commonly known as the Free Tuition Law. Pangilinan recognized the economic barriers preventing the aforementioned law from universal application, with how low-income families have more difficulty attaining education. Pangilinan’s bill seeks to expand the free tuition law by ensuring at least 1 college graduate for every family, as well as other subsidies. Pangilinan’s bill however includes specific parameters that will decide which students are eligible for the program – making the effort an exclusive one, and not an affirmation of the universal right to education.

It isn’t enough. The efforts to amend our education accessibility laws are insufficient in the face of greater systemic problems. Pangilinan’s bill, as well as the previous Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, fails to address root systemic issues.

Pangilinan evokes the 1987 Constitution as the mandate to ensure universal access to education. He is quoted as saying: “This proposed measure seeks to deliver on the Constitutional obligation of the State to protect and promote the rights of Filipino students to quality education, especially those from the poorest and most vulnerable families.” But Pangilinan’s bill does not ensure universal access to education by focusing on “at least one graduate per family” subject to the bill’s standards and priorities. The bill veils this exclusivity by stating that the deserving students will come from low-income households, but this does not erase its lack of universal application.

With the justification of “at least one graduate per family,” we can foresee cuts to the country’s education budget. If the government continues to limit itself to investing in the education of a select few students, it provides a justification for cutting the education budget as a whole. Ensuring universal access to quality education should mean more spending by the government. But with neoliberalism abounding in the Philippines, it becomes clear why the government would rather not spend on something they have the duty of providing such as universal access to education.

The barriers for inclusion within the bill only reinforce the unjust education system in the Philippines that holds education – especially quality education – as a privilege, and not a right. To uphold this unjust education system is to allow marginalization and economic disparity to continue and fester.

This bill is a manifestation of Pangilinan’s elite politics, and by extension, the general attitude of our elite politicians. We are offered mere shallow, surface-level “solutions” that will never truly solve the education crisis in the country. Elite politicians and elite governments only serve their own ruling class interests.

We are all aware that there is a grave education crisis in the Philippines. The problem is that quality education is not accessible, especially to the poor. If we want to fix this issue, we must tackle that root problem. Charity-like programs and meager subsidies can only do so much, and can only go so far. To address the education crisis, there must be an expansion of the coverage of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, and eventually, systemic reforms to ensure free and accessible quality education for all, in all levels, such as but not limited to increasing the education budget and the inclusion of students and faculty in decision-making processes. To uphold that universal right to quality education is the duty of the government. Our government of elites has so far only given us false hopes and promises while rejecting the urgent need to tackle the root systemic issue. That is an inherent feature in a government of elites.

SPARK stands firm, as we always have, on the urgency of the need for free quality education, and for a truly people-centered government that serves the masses. Senator Pangilinan must retract his bill and redirect his efforts towards genuinely ensuring free universal quality education. If Pangilinan insists on his detrimental and tokenistic bill, he must face the verdict of youth and student voters this coming May.

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