Education and Home

Maceda on education

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz - The Philippine Star

So far, I have written about the education agenda of senatoriables Samson Alcantara (Teachers Code), Sonny Angara (Study Now Pay Later), Bam Aquino (GoTrabaho), Greco Belgica (tuition voucher), JV Ejercito Estrada (subsidy for SUCs), Baldomero Falcone (securitization), Jamby Madrigal (feeding), Ramon Magsaysay (e-learning), Antonio Trillanes II (anti-bullying), and Eddie Villanueva (scholarships).

Here is Ernesto Maceda’s answer to my question about the first bill on education he would file should he be reelected to the Senate:

“My first education bill: Remove all tuition charges from state colleges and universities. We can do this by tripling the budgets of all state colleges and universities. Encourage donations to all state colleges and universities by giving double tax deductions to all donated amounts.”

I agree. The idea behind putting up state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs) is to have an alternative to private higher educational institutions (PHEIs).

PHEIs cannot exist without charging tuition fees. Some (hardly any) PHEIs make money from endowments, investments, international mother institutions, rentals to fast-food chains, and things of that sort; nevertheless, they need to charge tuition to cover most of their operating expenses. In short, students have to pay tuition to get into PHEIs.

Not every intelligent high school graduate, however, has enough money for tuition. One of the major reasons students drop out of college is simply lack of money to pay tuition. Because our poverty rate is extremely high (no matter how every president has tried to downplay it), there are numerous young men and women who could have been assets to the nation had they been given the chance to finish a college education.

It is true that the government does not have an obligation to give free tertiary education, but it is also true that the country will not progress if too many young men and women with the potential to become leaders have to stop studying because of poverty.

If we can put it simplistically, high school education is enough for a person to land a job, but that person will remain a worker, not a leader. To become a leader, a person has to have a college degree. That is what college is for – it is to prepare students for positions of leadership in their fields.

The K to 12 reform has placed this vision of tertiary education at the forefront. The old General Education Curriculum (GEC) in college was meant to make up for what high school education was not giving to students. The addition of two years to basic education has now made it unnecessary for colleges to do remedial work. Higher education can now be really higher, not another round of basic education.

Since it will now be possible for a Senior High School graduate to get employed or even to set up his or her own business, why should there be tertiary education? The answer is that we cannot have a country where everybody has only a middle-level or lower-level job. We need leaders to steer the country into the new century (which, to remind us all, is now more than a decade old).

That leadership can be honed only in HEIs. If the vast majority of our young people (roughly 80% of 18-year-olds) are prevented from going to college because of poverty, then we are limiting our potential leaders to only 20% of the population. Pardon the leap in logic, but we can say that we have only a 20% chance of getting good leaders.

To increase our chances of getting good leaders who can finally lift the country out of the basement (or the basket), we need to expand the field. We need to have as many young men and women trained for leadership or, in other words, finish a college degree.

SUCs and LUCs are the obvious vehicles to attract young people to continue their education and not to be contented with being only in lower or middle-level jobs. If we put up the hurdle of tuition fees, however, these young people will not go for a college degree. We do not have to make a logical leap to make that conclusion.

Therefore, removing all tuition and miscellaneous fees from public HEIs is the most direct way to get as many leaders as we can from our youth.

Maceda proposes to do this by giving double tax deductions to donors. I have an even more radical proposal. We know that a lot of billionaires do not pay proper taxes. President Aquino said this when he spoke to a business federation. The BIR list of top taxpayers made this even clearer.

Why not say that we will not audit these billionaires next year if they donate, say, a couple of billion pesos each to the government fund for SUCs and LUCs?

Giving amnesty should be seen positively, not negatively. Instead of saying that we are forgiving all these tax evaders for all their past crimes (sins, really) against the nation, why not get their money to help poor students?

Instead of boasting about their dollars in Forbes magazine, they should be boasting about how many billion pesos they have given to SUCs and LUCs.

Then, maybe, we will get the leaders we deserve, not the ones we end up serving.

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