MANILA – Groups of students stormed the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) yesterday, June 7, and stayed there overnight to demand free college education and denounce Ched’s approval of tuition hike in private schools.
Ched approved on May 25 the tuition and other fees increase in 268 private higher education institutions (HEIs) nationwide. Of which, 237 will increase other fees collection at an average of P243 ($5). A total of 262 universities, meanwhile, will increase tuition by an average of P87 (less than $2) per unit.
These are manifestations that existing laws have permitted education to be treated as a business at the expense of the students who are its primary stakeholders, said Jose Mari Callueng, National President of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) in a statement. CEGP is among the various groups who joined the protests.
“Institutional policies on tuition deregulation serve as a powerful pretext for Ched to rationalize tuition hikes…we can only expect the cost of higher education to skyrocket in the years to come,” he added.
The Education Act of 1982 gives the right to private schools to determine their rate of charges, thus justifying the fees hike. Ched Memorandum No. 3, Series of 2012 also allows increases in tuition and other fees.
The groups also slammed certain provisions in the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Bill, which was recently passed for a third and final reading in the House of Representatives and only awaits the president’s approval before being enacted as a law.
In December last year, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to provide accessible and quality education for Filipino students.
“Instead of free tuition, what will be implemented in schools and SUCs is socialized tuition system, which requires you to first prove that you are ‘poor and deserving,’” Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Jane Elago said.
Such scheme legitimizes tuition collection and undermines the right to education, which should be enjoyed by everyone, she added.
Elago voted “yes” to the bill, but clarified she had reservations.
“It is like applying a big band-aid, instead of actually treating the gaping wound in the education system, which has transformed it into a business,” Elago said.
“More than making tertiary education free and accessible to all, we want to uphold the public character of SUCs, as well as address the structural ills of the Philippine education system,” she added.
The two-day camp-out protests outside Ched is part of the week-long series of youth and students’ protests aimed to drumbeat the clamor for free and mass-oriented education.
From June 5 to 6, youth groups and high school students also camped out of the office of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City the continuing struggles brought by K-12 program and increases in fees.
The protesters said the camp-out outside Ched will continue until today, June 8, in spite of the continuing rains.
“We’re doing this because we know that through public pressure we can gain more. In our view, education should be devoid of policies that are for business, commercialization and profit,” Elago said.