Students blast CHED Chair Licuanan’s anti-free public education remarks

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“We heard it from the horse’s mouth – Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and its chairperson, Patricia Licuanan, revealed their failure in providing tertiary education for most, if not all, of the Filipino youth. Their stance against free tuition in particular and free public education in general is a troubling admission that this government has been crushing our right to education since time immemorial”.

This is the statement of League of Filipino Students (LFS) National Chairperson JP Rosos on Wednesday in reaction to the answers given by CHED’s Licuanan in an interview with Winnie Monsod aired this week.

In the interview, Licuanan explicitly said that free tuition won’t benefit the poor. She noted that the poorest of the poor are not yet in college. According to her, “They have been knocked out long ago and enrollment of the poorest quintile in higher education is only 8 percent. So it’s not going to benefit the poor.”

“Licuanan’s adamant stance against free tuition reveals how CHED and this government has become downright anti-student and anti-people,” said Rosos.

“It is enraging that CHED holds the knowledge of how aggravating the situation of the youth in terms of access to tertiary education but their actions show otherwise. Even with their data and findings at hand, they are still adamant in furthering the privatization and commercialization of universities and colleges across the country. They have allowed relentless increases in tuition and impositions of other school fees,” he added.

“With the agency’s loyalty to neoliberal policies, they have succeeded in making education a lucrative business for capitalist educators. In the past decades, state universities have been increasing their collection from students. Without any regulation, private schools have also increased their profit by miles due to tuition and other school fees paid by students. As such, it is no wonder that only a handful of the poorest quintile can afford college education,” Rosos noted.

The youth leader stressed that CHED and the government’s policies and actions towards the youth and the whole education sector are unacceptable. Rosos noted that CHED should be held accountable.

LFS also slammed the argument of Licuanan that the subsidy for education should start with the “poorest segments” before benefitting the “nonpoor”.

“Licuanan doesn’t seem to understand what right to education and state responsibility means. Providing free public education must cover every Filipino youth regardless of their background. There should be no conditions in providing free public education,” said Rosos.

According to the student leader, their demand is free public education that can be accessed by everyone and having no tuition is just a starting step towards this goal. Rosos argued that Licuanan’s remarks show the anti-student and anti-people orientation of CHED.

“The conditions that Licuanan wants in terms of implementing free tuition stem from the founding principles of neoliberal policies – the very policies that pave the way for deregulation, liberalization, and privatization of education. Such premise will only promote the intensification of attacks against the youth’s right to free public education,” said Rosos.

“If this regime really wants to expand access to education – particularly tertiary education, then CHED and the Duterte government should start by junking different neoliberal policies such as the Education Act of 1982 and the K to 12 program. These programs only pave the way for more out-of-school youth and drop outs due to skyrocketing cost of education,” Rosos ended. ###