Student group blames APEC for 'commercialization of education'
MANILA, Philippines – As world leaders arrived for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on Tuesday, November 17, the League of Filipino Students (LFS) held a torch parade to protest against “the commercialization of education” and the controversial K to 12 curriculum.
LFS blames APEC for paving the way for policies that increased the cost of education in the country.
According to LFS National Chairperson Charisse Bañez, APEC promotes the "privatization and commercialization of basic social services like education.”
APEC is the highest-level, most influential economic forum in the Asia-Pacific. With 21 member economies, it accounts for nearly half of world trade, and about 57% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Founded in 1989, it aims to promote free and open trade and investment. (READ: APEC what? An explainer on Manila's high-profile week)
LFS, which describes itself as an advocate of free public education, opposes tuition increases, which it says have turned education into “lucrative ventures for profit.”
Getting quality education has been one of the challenges that the Philippines faced entering 2015. Despite putting in place the Education for All Acceleration (EFA) Plan 2015, it has still missed several EFA goals.
Poor children in the country are less likely to complete the basic education level, with only 69% of grade school graduates coming from low-income families in 2015. Families who are well-off, on the other hand, can expect their child to transition to high school as 94% of rich children finish grade school. (READ: Gaps remain as PH misses 2015 goals)
The high cost of education has also affected college students, even those from state universities. In 2013, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) approved 354 petitions for tuition increases. Early in 2015, UST, along with 400 other universities, had plans for further hikes.
According to the regulations of the Department of Education (DepEd), 70% of a fee increase goes to teachers while at least another 20% goes to maintaining facilities. This has also been one of the reasons cited to justify tuition increases along with inflation and reported losses.
However, in May 2014, CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan gave assurances that the hikes would usher in expectations of better quality education and also said they were providing scholarships to private school students.
Another issue LFS railed against was the K to 12 program, which it believes only teaches skills for those interested in working overseas. The group cited occupations such as “welders, domestic helpers, hair dressers, butchers” as foreign countries’ needs that the Philippines hopes to fill.
Bañez accused the government of “turning our schools into a factory of cheap, semi-skilled, and docile laborers needed by foreign corporations.” Part of LFS' objections to the K to 12 program is that it is supposedly taking away skills that are more needed at home.
Much of the country’s revenues come from foreign remittances sent by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). While this has greatly contributed to the national economy, there are those who see brain drain as hindering Filipino growth. (READ: Solve PH brain drain problem to boost growth - UK think tank)
To better boost the economy, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), suggested increasing the investment in infrastructure and education, which ICAEW Southeast Asia Regional Director Mark Billington said would mean “that people can return to their home nation without fearing that their career progression will suffer.” – Rappler.com