The second State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) once again brought to the fore the corruption cases linked to the past administration. A year after his inauguration, the PNoy administration’s fervent fight against corruption is to be lauded, especially when democratic spaces have been opened for civil society groups and people’s organizations.
Anti-corruption measures, however, do not complete the puzzle in order to lift this country and its people from their sordid state. Sound economic policies should be in tandem with anti-corruption measures in order to deliver social justice and realize inclusive economic growth.
One of the administration’s pet programs, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), serves as a poverty-containment measure that should be complemented with sound welfare services. The education sector, however, may remain in a sordid state due to underfunding.
PNoy’s administration was also met with protests from student and youth organizations because of the budget cuts administered for State Universities and Colleges (SUC). PNoy’s budget message submitted to the 15th Congress says “We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them towards becoming self-sufficient and financially-independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects”. This vision for SUCs resulted to massive budget cuts, especially for Philippine Normal University and the University of the Philippines system.
The 2012 budget proposed by the administration paints a similar bleak picture for the education sector. The Department of Education will get the biggest pie from the proposed 1.816T peso-budget with the obligation of P214 B, more than a 10% increase from this year’s appropriation. The allocation includes the School Building Fund, a project to increase classrooms for basic education in tandem with the K+12. The administration’s K+12 program serves as the flagship program for the education sector. The K+12 seeks to adhere to international standards by extending the number of years of for basic education from 10 to 12 years.
The implementation of the K+12 can arguably be called noble and ultimately necessary, but the government must first face and take the immediate steps in addressing other factors that cause the crises in education.
The international standard for education spending is pegged at 6% of the country’s gross national product (GNP), as recommended by the Delors Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The country’s current education spending is at 2.44% GNP.
The move by the current administration to pave the way for self-sufficiency of SUCs proves detrimental to those who are currently in tertiary education. Budget cuts by the current administration will result to a massive increase in tuition and other fees if SUCs fail to generate funds from income-generating and research and development projects.
While school administrators are burdened by the dilemma of income-generation, the administration’s budget remains to be debt-driven. Although debt payments have decreased from 372.1 B pesos of this year to 367.2B pesos in the proposed 2012 budget, it is still grossly over prioritized compared to the SUC budget of P 21.9 B for the delivery of quality education in 110 state universities and colleges, a decrease from this year’s P 23.7 B.
The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines urges the PNoy administration to lay down a progressive reform agenda for the education sector that does not discriminate against tertiary education.
We urge the Committee on Appropriations to reject the supposed infallibility of the Automatic Appropriations Act which bleeds the country’s coffers of resources that could be invested in welfare services especially for the poor.
We urge the people’s representatives in Congress to invest in quality education that entails the 6% of the country’s GNP allocated for public education spending.
Education underspending is not “matuwid na daan”. http://scapnational.wordpress.com/