Education underfunding has been the signature of the Philippine government for more than two decades now. The Philippine government spends only 2% of the country’s GNP to education, compared to the 6% prescribed by the UNESCO Delors Commission.
At the same time, tertiary academic institutions have been plagued by campus students’ rights violation due to a lack of a national policy that secures students’ rights and welfare. Academic institutions have remained discriminatory against the LGBT and women. The lack of campus democratization in academic institutions can be linked to the pervasive macho culture of Philippine society.
Academic institutions have also been export-oriented. Degrees that cater to the need of young Filipinos to migrate are dominant because of high demand. To cater to the high demand of export-oriented degrees means secure income for private academic institutions.
The crisis in Philippine education is systemic, owing to the minimal responsibility by the government.
However, the opening of democratic spaces due to the Aquino government has also opened opportunities for reform-minded civil society organizations. The engagement with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education has been recognized by militant student and youth organizations like the Coalition for Students' Rights and Welfare, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, and Akbayan! Youth as areas of engagement to infuse reform into the education sector.
The proposed education reform conference intends to consolidate forces and ideas of student leaders from all over the country, from private and public universities, to be able to maximize the reform spaces opened up by the current administration.
Specifically, the Conference has the following objectives:
- To consult student leaders, student organizations from different regions regarding the education situation specifically the Higher Education Act of 1994, Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997, Students' Rights and Welfare Bill, and the Budget Process;
- To consolidate ideas in the discussions; and
- To formulate an initial education reform agenda as basis for an education platform.