Today's headline in the Manila Bulletin reads: Tuition hike moratorium urged The sub-head reads: DepEd chief says new burden untimely in crisis
The article quotes DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus as saying:
"Lapus said it would also be for the good of private schools if they would enforce a moratorium on tuition increase as such would prevent the exodus of their students to public schools."
At first glance, it seems like good news, and it is! After all, it is not everyday that the Secretary of Education urges private elementary and high schools to refrain from raising tuition fees. However, if you look at the news article more closely, some problems start to surface.
This is what the article reports the Secretary to have said:
- "Lapus, however, said that if private schools really find it necessary to impose higher tuition, they must ensure that the increase is reasonable and that the parents are properly consulted."
- "Lapus also admitted that the government hands are actually tied on the issue considering that tuition increase is already deregulated."
- "All that the government can do is to make an appeal and make sure that the increases are reasonable."
In short, what Secretary Lapus is saying is that tuition fees have been deregulated and all that government can do is to make an appeal or request, or "pakiusap."
The bottom line? At least for now:
- We should all support Secretary Lapus and see to it that he does not backtrack from his minimal call for a moratorium but instead improve on it. My own reading is that it is not exactly true that tuition fees have been "deregulated." The Secretary of Education can do a lot more than simply make an appeal or pakiusap to private schools when it comes to the issue of tuition fee increases.
- As parents, students and stakeholders in the educational system, we should stop thinking that we cannot do anything on the issue of rampaging tuition fee hikes. There is always something that we can do. Learning more about the process of raising tuition fees and how to oppose it is a good start. Practising what we've learned is even better. (More on this later.)
- If you have time, look up Republic Act No. 6728, "An Act Providing Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education, And Appropriating Funds Therefor." It says in Section 10 thereof, "Consultation. In any proposed increase in the rate of tuition fee, there shall be appropriate consultations conducted by the school administration with the duly organized parents and teachers associations and teachers associations and faculty associations with respect to secondary schools, and with students governments or councils, alumni and faculty associations with respect to colleges. For this purpose, audited financial statements shall be made available to authorized representatives of these sectors."
- The questions at this point, 1) how many of us know that this law even exists, especially this particular provision wherein it says that schools are supposed to make available audited financial statements to the various sectors with whom they hold consultation?; 2) As parents, or students, how many of us have attended these consultation meetings or have shown an interest to do so?; 3) How many schools have faithfully complied with the requirement to call these consultation meetings and conduct them properly? 4) How many among us can recognize a financial statement let alone understand how to read it so that we can intelligently participate in the discussion in the remote event that we are afforded a chance to sit down in a tuition fee consultation meeting?
- Have you ever heard the DepEd inviting parents and students to a seminar where they teach us about the process of raising tuition fees so that we can better protect our own interests? The DepEd spends considerable amounts training its own personnel in expensive locales but there's not even a pittance for parents. Parents who send their children to private schools help shoulder a burden which belongs to government but this government seems unmindful of that fact. In this country, parents in private schools are parents without rights! Tragic but true so we need to join hands and do something about it if we want to win back our rights and gain some respect!
- Again, if you have the opportunity, check out the Supreme Court's 1993 decision in Lina vs. Cariño (the pertinent links do not appear to be working at the moment). That ruling had much to say about the power of the DECS (the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports) regarding tuition fee increases, power which carries over to the DepEd and the CHED today.
- We should press our local authorities (as in City Mayor, Councilors, etc.) to provide greater funding for health and education. Unless funds are allocated in the budget for public health and public education, taxpayers' money will simply go to corruption and wasteful spending. I know that this is easier said than done but this is something that we simply have to do. Without competition from well-funded, well-run public schools, private schools will always have a heyday imposing their will to all of us on the issue of tuition fees.
This issue is broad and deep and there is much to discuss. Much of what there is to say about the DepEd also applies to the CHED (Commission on Higher Education). Tuition fees and other school fees that are charged by these private schools are part of the bigger issue of consumerism. If they're not, they should be!
The paradigm needs to change. It's not only private schools that are private! The pockets of parents in private schools are private pockets! Can you pick a private pocket without committing a crime?
How about picking millions of private pockets of parents in private schools every semester or trimester? How big and terrible a crime is that?!!!
From now on, this government should look at it that way. It has to be fair in protecting private property no matter how big or how little those involved.
We're only skimming the surface at this point. As we shall see later, this is an issue that reaches all the way up to the United Nations.
See you in the succeeding installments. In the meantime, I'll appreciate hearing about your own thoughts and experiences on this matter which veritably affects the future of millions of young Filipinos.