It’s not about the money money money

Posted on September 26, 2011


Hon. Krissy Conti

UP Student Regent

Students took to the streets last week to protest the education crisis, not merely the budget cuts. If money were the only factor necessary to ensure quality education, UP would outpace all other state colleges and universities ten times over. UP (inclusive of PGH budget P5.54 billion, with RLIP P6.6 billion) would be doing mathematical differentials while the Philippine State College of Aeronautics (P70,062) and Marikina Polytechnic College (P67,043) are still learning addition.

Why does government find it hard to engage the assertion of activists that the education crisis stems from factors, and gives rise to issues beyond education spending? One of the most simple correlations we’ve raised is this:

  1. Underfunding of education – Quality education is influenced by the quality of teachers, the quality of infrastructure and equipment, and ultimately, the quality of the students. This is where underfunding matters most; Secretary Butch Abad should know this by now. Teachers need to feed themselves, the school buildings have to stay up, the laboratories need to be well-stocked, and the students have to pay jeep and train fares to get to school. This is exacerbated by inequitable funding.
  2. Inequitable funding – Government makes so many distinctions: first between basic and tertiary education, and then among state colleges and universities. What is clear is that education is being funded disproportionately. This results in distinct differences between the quality of education in each school, leading to commercialization of education.
  3. Commercialization of education – Education is a treated like a commodity, hawked like property. In such sense, thus it must conform to the demands of the times. This is why we have the perennial debate between private and public control over education, but in either domain, there is a lack of framework for our educational system.
  4. Lack of educational framework for education – We have no substantial goals nor sound philosophy for our education. The Long Term Higher Education Development Plan aims to “diffuse knowledge in the relevant and responsive to the dynamically changing domestic and international environment.” It is, mildly put, reactionary. The government has no vision for this country; we lack a national industrialization framework.
  5. Lack of national industrialization framework for the country – We have no specific growth goals for our country which is backward and semi-feudal. Are we going to be a production-based country? Agricultural? Manufacturing? Services? A mix of all?

True, there are many inefficiencies lodged in running our schools, like when we print ten excess test papers, or when we hire two fresh graduates when what we need is one with an MA. Our school administrators try their best to minimize all of these; this is why UP President Alfredo Pascual espouses “operational excellence” along with academic excellence. But we balk when our esteemed academic and administrative heads are compelled to be political lackeys – so they can secure sufficient funds from the Department of Budget and Management, Congress, and the President; and especially, assure the timely release of the funds. (Note: Over nine years, the unreleased appropriations for UP reached P6.19 billion.)

It is easy to say that the 10,000 students who missed classes last week were noisy and pesky brats; even easier to call them lousy students and flunkies. Focus on your studies, says Abigail Valte rather rashly. Ms Valte probably lived with parents and learned from teachers who measured intelligence by the book. For these kinds of people, memorizing Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo would be the best measure of nationalism. It is as if, had we really studied, we would never have noticed how injudicious the system is. Our progressive education and our society are training us for lifelong learning, and how we wish President Noynoy Aquino, Secretary Abad and Ms Valte were prepared as well. Then we can “make the world dance, forget about the price tag”.

Defend public education and health care! Fight for greater state subsidy to social services!

Statement originally published here:

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