What You Need to Know About Charter Change and its Possible Effects on the Education Sector

By Jose Lorenzo Lim

(In a series of articles, IBON tackles proposals to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution*, focusing on social and economic provisions. These touch on agrarian reform for industrialization, and full foreign ownership and control of Philippine lands and natural resources including agricultural lands, public utilities, labor rights, educational institutions and mass media. This particular article features allowing full foreign ownership of educational institutions in the Philippines.)

Before you agree to amendments on the current 1987 Constitution of the Philippines for a Federal form of government, you might want to check out the current proposals for Charter change (Cha-cha) especially in the education sector.

Charter What?

Cha-cha or constitutional reform refers to amendments or revisions in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The amendments may be on provisions on the term limit of a President, overhauling government structure, or even economic policies. Since the time of Martial Law, Cha-cha has been brought up by almost every administration but ultimately failed.

Now, there is a call to shift to a Federal type of government through different proposals. Thus, President Rodrigo Duterte set up 19-member consultative body to review the 1987 Constitution.

Three Documents to Remember

As of February, there were four proposals of Cha-cha in the Philippines stipulated in the following documents:

  • Resolution of Both Houses Number 8 (RBH 8) consolidated in House Concurrent Resolution Number 9 (HCR 9)
  • PDP-Laban Federalism Institute (FI) Proposed Constitution
  • House subcommittee version

Charter Change and Education Provisions

With all of these proposals happening, let’s take a look at the proposed changes across all four documents regarding the provisions on education.

Education has repeatedly been said to be a fundamental human right. This is written in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that says education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Moreover, the 1987 Constitution stipulates that quality educational opportunities at all levels should be the right of all Filipino citizens. Throughout decades of neoliberal globalization, this principle has been replaced with a market-based logic that treats education as a commodity sold by businessmen for profit.

Looking back, since 1965, market-biased international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have played significant roles in commercializing Philippine education.

Now, the onset of Cha-cha threatens the education sector to the further gain of both local and foreign capitalists.

RBH 8 says that free education should be upheld in pre-school, primary, elementary, and in colleges and universities (see Table 1). The stipulation suggests that privately or foreign-owned educational institutions could receive government subsidy. The house subcommittee on the other hand grants each state the power to provide basic and secondary education without particularizing whether or not it should be free. Meanwhile, the PDP-Laban has no stance on whether to give free education to Filipino citizens.

Table 1: Proposed revisions of different versions of Cha-cha in Article X: Regional and Local Governments regarding the provision of education

RBH 8

PDP-Laban

House subcommittee

Section 21. The Regional Assembly shall have the authority to legislate on areas that are not exclusively reserved to the Federal Congress, such as, but not limited to:

(ff) Free education from pre-school, primary and elementary schools, and subsidized colleges and universities

None

Each state shall have legislative powers over the following:

  • Basic and secondary education and state higher education

The following areas shall be the concurrent powers of the federal government and the states:

  • Education (Federal standard for and regulation of higher education; standard-setting for and assistance to basic and secondary education)

Regarding foreign ownership rules in Article XII: National Economy and Patrimony, RBH 08 imposes the limitations on foreign ownership of corporations, public utilities, educational insitutions (a.k.a. “60-40 rule”), as well as of media and advertising entities, but inserts the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” so that the stipulation could be overruled by new laws (see Table 2).

The PDP- Laban and House proposals removed the “60-40” rule and other provisions on foreign ownership.

The “unless otherwise provided by law“ clause in most of these provisions is an easy way for Congress to operationalize the foreign ownership of educational institutions and circumvent the Constitution without having to rewrite it. Take note that the Philippine Senate is already conducting hearings on the amendments to the Public Services Act, which would open public services to foreign ownership.

Foreign ownership of educational institutions can be a bad thing for the Philippines. It could worsen colonial backward education fostering uncritical and subservient thinking.

Foreign ownership could lead to the further commercialization of education especially with the introduction of new competitors to the private education business. Already, commercialized Philippine education has seen decades of increasing tuition and school fees, the rise of oligarchs-run educational institutions against a weakening public education system, and a career-oriented curriculum instead of one that instills the value of social service and nation building.

During the last school year, more than 250 private colleges and universities increased tuition and other school fees by an average of 7.0%. Private educational institutions are not covered by the newly enacted free tuition law. Government has been spending public funds for private gain: For instance, from 2010-2016, a total of Php47.9 billion was alloted for the Government Assistance for Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE).

One might say that the introduction of foreign ownership will lead to better curriculums and better opportunities for Filipinos abroad. But the first batch of K to 12 graduates are going out to the world and while they are ‘equipped’ to be hired already, they would become a source of cheap labor. The K to 12 program was designed to produce overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for cheap labor, which in the first place Filipinos would not have to be if there were enough jobs in the country.

What we need is a nationalistic curriculum that is designed to address the needs of the Philippines. Take for example the curriculum in Lumad schools, designed by the indigenous people to develop and sustain their farming communities.

Table 2 Proposed revisions of different versions of Cha-cha in Article XII: National Economy and Patrimony covering educational institutions

RBH 8

PDP-Laban

House subcommittee

Article XIII

…] Section 20. […] (2) Educational institutions, other than those established by religious groups and mission boards, shall be owned solely by citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens, unless otherwise provided by a federal law. The Congress may, however, require increased Filipino equity participation in all educational institutions.

The control and administration of educational institutions shall be vested in citizens of the Philippines, unless otherwise provided by a federal law.

[…] Section 5. The State shall regulate and exercise authority over foreign investments within its national jurisdiction and in accordance with its national goals and priorities.

* Subsections (2) to (4) of Section 4 of Article XIV, referring to ownership of educational institutions, would be deleted.

Subcommittee #4’s summary:

New proposals deleted the limits on foreign equity sharing in the areas of:

  • Exploitation, development and utilization of natural resources
  • Ownership/Lease of alienable lands
  • Franchises on public utilities
  • Practice of profession
  • Ownership of educational institutions
  • Mass media
  • Advertising

The matter of equity sharing and the terms involving joint ventures and other undertakings in the areas above shall be determined by Congress through legislation.

The new proposal effectively provides for an open economy.

A phrase would also be added in Section 13 saying the State shall “enhance economic efficiency and promote free competition in trade, industry and commercial activities.”

What do we do now?

The 1987 Constitution stated that ownership and control of educational institutions should be limited to Filipino citizens. Yet, Philippine governments have allowed the neoliberal policies that have commercialized education and geared the curriculum towards market-oriented globalization. Cha-cha will remove any remaining protection of the sector and may even make it more vulnerable to being treated further as a commodity and serve foreign interests by opening it up to foreign ownership.

Like the policies and policy-makers who crafted it, the current education system of the Philippines does not reflect the genuine aspirations of the Filipino people for development. Now, more than ever, Filipinos need to push for a curriculum that promotes genuine love of country, the use of scientific methods than pseudoscientific ones, and the advancement of the rights of marginalized groups in Philippine society. Simply put, the country needs a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education.




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