‘Free Education’ IRR, leaves out poor and average students – youth coalition

MANILA --- A national coalition of youth and student organizations raised concerns over the release of the much-delayed implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10931 or the Universal Access to Tertiary Quality Education law by the Commission of Higher Education (CHEd). They claimed that the issues and concerns they previously brought up remain to be unresolved. “Queries on access, budget and guarantees for the law’s proper implementation remain unanswered”. The Free Eduk Watch alliance claim that the law as well as its IRR are “intrisically flawed” from its onset. They claim that the provisions of the IRR is evidence of its partiality to the owners of private colleges and universities. They added that it merely “reinforced the long-standing oppurtunism of the private sector on tertiary education” since the Marcosian Batas Pambansa 232 or the Education Act of 1982. According to Shara Mae Landicio of KAISA UP, the group’s spokesperson, “plans of expanding and capacitating SUCs and LUCs are, at best, only secondary and merely maintain the country’s long-standing dependence on private institutions in providing tertiary education”. The group also lamented that only 78 out of the 118 community colleges were accredited by the CHEd to receive funds from national governement. They seek the full disclosure of the process of acceditation and how the CHEd plans to ensure the inclusion of the remaining local colleges and universities. Landicio urged a mandatory accreditation of all LUCS in order to make education universally accesible. “A great majority of those who study at LUCs are economically advantaged and average learners. Why punish them with exclusion from the law when they are the ones that need it most to lift themselves out of poverty, considering that the Duterte administration has already forsaken the poor the past two years, asked Jade Lyndon Mata of activist group, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK). They likewise condemned officials claiming that everyone could avail of the stipend for college students when in fact that around twenty percent only of all college enrollees shall benefit from the Tertiary Education Subsidy. They argued that budget appropriated for academic year 2018-2019 is P40 billion while the needed funds stand at around P114.52 billion to be able to provide sufficient subsidies and loans to all students. The coalition also fears that the law’s implementation will even worsen in the years to come. They cite the lack of an automatic appropriations provision to sustain it and the requirement for public universities and colleges to undergo scrutiny annually from politicians. But what they anguish more, they say, is “Malacanang’s penchant for favoring capitalist-educators interests”. Meanwhile PUP Student Regent Elijah San Fernando said that, “the CHEd has time and again irresponsibly delayed the release of the Student Loan Program (SLP) handbook and SLP Designation Framework as the academic calendar commences in less than two months”. The group vowed that even if the CHEd conspicuously delayed its release and has not informed the general public on how to avail the law’s benefits, they shall continue insisting that the youth should always be represented in the crafting of documents and a thorough national consultation should also have been held for both college and senior high school students in all public and private schools. The coalition called on all students excluded by the CHEd to get in touch with them through their Facebook page and plan out the next steps forward.