Monday, June 13, 2011

Save UPIS, Save our children’s RIGHT to education.

Editor's note: We are posting the following petition in line with our policy of providing access to those with alternative points of view, and because it discusses many topics that we deem to be relevant to the Diliman community. We hope that at least some of the points will ultimately become points of discussion and debate, which is healthy for the democratic governance of any institution. We note that the previous U.P. Administration railroaded, through its administration-dominated Board of Regents, the approval of the long-term lease of the University of the Philippines Integrated School. Maybe it is this secretive end-of-days approval and the trampling of the U.P. Charter itself (R.A. 9500), which cries out - even if belatedly - for real consultations with all affected sectors before a project of this financial magnitude is implemented, and which has led to a growing body of disaffected U.P.I.S. alumni questioning the project when implementation is about to begin, for no public consultations of any consequence have ever been implemented. It is only with the utmost sensitivity to the feelings of these disaffected U.P.I.S. alumni, that the new administration of U.P. President Alfredo E. Pascual can seek to allay the concerns of the U.P.I.S. alumni.

Large real estate corporations are currently waiting for the Department of Finance to approve the implementing rules for real estate investment trusts (REITs), which allow investors to invest directly in Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)-listed real estate projects (rather than in the shares of the company itself). Such projects, potentially including the U.P.I.S. project, which will be operated by Ayala Land, Inc. fall within the probable time frame of co-implementation of the U.P.I.S. project and the approval by the DOF of REITs (the estimated period is 2011-2012). Ayala Land, Inc., should it finance this project via REITs, will be dependent on financing derived from large and small investors, and these REITs are themselves vulnerable to losses in share prices, if there are untied loose ends (such as restive and unconsulted sectors who remain unconvinced that this is a good project). Ultimately, it is in the best interests of Ayala Land, Inc. and the new U.P. Administration to make sure that Ayala Land projects are all above board when it comes to the University of the Philippines, because a lack of consultation of the affected sectors not only is in violation of R.A. 9500, but the share prices of Ayala Land, Inc., considered a blue chip stock in the Philippine Stock Exchange, are subject to a pummeling if the investing public, made up of large and small investors, including large foreign investors, sees a large, well-regarded company "slipping" in the all-important area of corporate governance, which under international best business practices, really calls for communities and affected sectors to be consulted properly and respectfully by the project proponents, even if there was no U.P. Charter requiring this.

Please sign this petition if you want to oppose commercialization of our schools and keep our right to education.
All the underlying issues are discussed below.

This is a petition to our University of the Philippines President, Alfredo Pascual and to our Philippine President Ninoy Aquino.
From concerned Filipino citizens- students and parents alike, speaking in behalf of all the universities in the country.
Save UPIS, Save our children’s RIGHT to education.

During most of  GMA’s term, 154 out of 264 State Universities and Collegess (SUCs)(1), including  the University of the Philippines(2) were converted from a state to a national university.

Though this may seem like a harmless name change,  this move, a.k.a.“rationalization” is nothing but detrimental to the state of our education.

As a national university,  the school ceases to be a responsibility of the state and is thus tasked to earn money for its keep - making it a money making business(3) rather than an institution in the service of its people.

You may wonder, how such a change could have been allowed by its academic administrators, the guardians of our learning.

In this, you need to follow the money.  For each school converted to a national university, you have to ask- 

"Were those who voted in its favor given special positions as profit recipients of this anomaly?"

"Could a busines-oriented school be so bad?",  you may ask.

Emerlinda Roman, then incumbent UP President reasons that it is a good discipline  for universities to be trained in the realities of business and economics.

Though this may be so,  this is the price we have to pay:

1. NO MONEY,  NO STUDY Education, which used to be the right of every deserving child is now a privilege of the financially capable few.
In UP, the 300% tuition fee increase(4) resulted in the non-admission of 1/3 of its students(5), who, even though passed the academe’s stringent examination, failed the business entity’s financial requirement.
  • Take the case of a freshman Chemistry student from a minority group in Cotabato.(6)
    His father, has set aside money from their meagre income  to ensure that his bright son gets a life different from his own.  They were welcomed by a 300% tuition fee increase, which they had to produce in a few days.  Unable to come up with the amount, the son dropped out, downtrodden, dreams of a better life gone.

    A bright mind left to stagnate.  A parent’s strife, rendered futile.
The open slot that he leaves is now taken up by a foreign student(7) who finds the tuition fee, a meager amount compared to what they have to pay in their country(8).
Our gift of education to the world? Or hope denied to our countrymen.

The faculty, now tasked to make ends meet- has business as its primary function rather than how to continuously improve the curriculum.

Faculty meetings are about budgets and ideas on fundraisers while the school syllabus stays stagnant.

Though it is important to propagate courses that support our business infrastructure as Business Administration, Engineering, Law-  courses needed in the positive well balanced development of our country and people are overlooked- as Education,  Fine Arts, Community Development.
The UP School of Education is downsized even as there is a gnawing need for more teachers.  The resulting downsizing of UPIS, a laboratory school that helps UP Ed students, our future teachers in designing a better syllabus, is a direct casualty of this shift in priorities.
Projecting into the future, we will become a consumerist nation, devoid of  social and cultural values that give life its true rich meaning.

Take a tour of UP and you will find that the independent community of old now gives way to advertising.
  • All the pebbles of the academic oval are engraved with names of donors.
  • The rooms are named after brands and companies who gave a sizeable donation.
Though I commend those who gave financial support to the school, I also believe that true giving is selfless and anonymous.

Time was when we named our edifices after heroes, people who made selfless contributions to higher learning.

Now, we name them after the highest bidder.

This practice has gone to the extreme with the lease of Technohub. 

What was misrepresented to be a science and technology incubator, is now a business and commercial center- rented at a discount of 177Million over 25 years, which is only 8% of fair market value(10) to the school’s preferred business partners.

And now, UPIS…(click here to see Save UPIS video)
  • the school, dilapidated as they reasoned, will be transferred to an even smaller, burnt remnant of a residence hall.  A token alm is given, hardly enough for its repairs.
  • The students, will be downsized as a result of the uprofitable, deprioritized and downsized Colege of Education
  • The sprawling grounds, used to be the site of youth sports activities will be replaced by a commercial mall.
All this, so that UP can add a meager P34Mill/year (11), a tiny drop to the P12Bill budget deficit that the government cannot provide.

Can the Philippine government REALLY not provide?

UP needs P18 Bill in 2011 to function but it only received P5.5Bill, a further decrease of P1.4 Bill  from the previous year.  (12)

With a total education budget of  2.8% of GDP (2008) (13) , the Philippine government, consistently allots less than half of the prescribed minimum of 6% set by UNESCO Delors Commission for developing countries.

The government,  they say is bankrupt and has no more money to give.  Is it really?
Sign the petition here.

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