Education for all and for life

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Saturday, March 23, 2013

THE educational system is one of the social systems that many humans go through and experience that could have profound effects on individuals, and by extension communities and societies.

A high level of education is among the eight pillars of peace identified by the Institute for Economics and Peace as characteristic of countries that are considered peaceful. Education can be a viable option for improving one’s economic and social lot. Many a personal story acknowledges how one was able to overcome poverty and its many limitations through opportunities gained from a good enough education.

Indeed, beyond obtaining the knowledge and skills that could enable us to have gainful trades, education is one of the institutions that could truly make possible the enjoyment of good quality lives.


No wonder then media was abuzz and many citizens agog over the suicide of UP Manila student Kristel Tejada. Her death was ascribed to depression triggered perhaps by her having had to go on forced leave of absence due to failure to pay P10,000 worth of tuition fees. The painful loss of a life involving an institution that is supposed to prepare one for life seems truly senseless.

Perhaps as acts of collective atonement, there were many calls for redress. Some are administrative in nature that improve policies and procedures; examples are the scrapping of the no late payment, and the forced leave of absence policies of UP.

Others, such as the proposed educational measures of Senate candidate Teddy Casiño, are more thoroughgoing in their prescriptions.

Casiño, himself once a student leader involved with the campus press, put together a platform that he dubs “Educational for All”. Among its features is greater state subsidy for education that proposes a P885 billion budget to address shortages in facilities, salary and benefits for teachers and MOOE. Compare this with the 2013 P286 billion budget for the Department of Education and state universities and colleges. He also proposed for better regulation of tuition and other fees by instituting a private school fee regulatory board, a moratorium on tuition fee hikes, and a democratic tuition consultation and decision-making process.

I refer to those proposals as measures that will enable Filipinos to get into the educational system and stay long enough in it. Without doubt education is important.

Thus, we have to ensure that Filipinos are able to access education through policies that channel resources to it. Schools have to be built; teachers, support staff and administrators hired, and facilities provided so that students even in the remote areas get into schools. There will have to be regulations so that no one is denied of educational opportunities due to exorbitant financial and unreasonable requirements. But getting individuals to enroll is one thing; making sure they stay in schools long enough is another.

There are many factors that can force students to leave school. Financial pressures abound in the form of academic and non-academic requirements and the rising costs of transportation and school supplies. But power plays, bullying and conflicts within the academe can also pressure students and make them vulnerable.

In this case, Casiño's advocacy to systematically promote students’ rights and welfare through the enactment of a Magna Carta of Students is timely. Not so long ago the students of the Ateneo de Davao University were among those who advocated for the Magna Carta of Students' Rights and Welfare under the auspices of the Buklod Atenista, the alliance of student councils in the Ateneo system. Perhaps it is high time that today's Atenistas in Davao join the renewed call.

Equally vital are measures that will enable Filipinos to get enough out of the educational system and develop what I loosely refer to as "life skills", those abilities that will enable individual Filipinos to think, act and behave not only for their own good but also for the good of their communities and society.

As the notion "good" is largely defined by contemporary and obtaining realities, challenges and opportunities, it will be important for Filipinos to be schooled in critical and holistic thinking and rights assertion. The latter includes not just claiming rights but also respecting other people's rights and honoring responsibilities and accountabilities.

In this respect I echo Casiños call for the cultivation of a nationalist, scientific and progressive education and culture. Casiño's specific advocacies for quality education and culture are sound and have been echoed by many -- promote Filipino and mother tongue-based instruction; reinstitute civics, history and social sciences as major subjects in all levels; and strengthen scientific research and development.

Elections 2013 is another opportunity for us to take stock of, reflect on and make decisions about the educational system in the Philippines. Among the steps we can take is ushering into office leaders who understand the challenges and potentials of the educational system and have not only a clear vision but also doable roadmaps for reform. We should not have to wait for another suicide to call attention to the state of Philippine education.

The point being that the next generations deserve education for all and education for life. We have to enable all Filipinos in their own time to get into the educational system, stay in it long enough, and get enough out of it.

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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 23, 2013.


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