By ATTY. MEL STA. MARIA
Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary general, said “knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
Education, to achieve its highest purpose, must draw inspiration from the government. And it must start with the President. Today, teachers may have serious reservations in having their young students hear President Duterte’s speeches. With his predilection for uttering expletives and, at times, showing-off a bad finger, an unintended lesson of bad manners and wrong conduct to our youth may be conveyed. That is no inspiration at all.
Also, after vetoing the bill granting the status of a national polytechnic university to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), President Duterte was quoted as saying: “Kayo dyan, yan pwede nating sarahan iyang PUP. Wala akong pakialam sa kanila. Go ahead.” Apparently, this statement was prompted by reports that the PUP was allegedly a recruitment school for communists. CNN, in its Internet news portal reported: “Duterte: I don’t care if PUP closes down.” After reading this, I posted the following in my Facebook timeline:
“Victor Hugo said, ‘He who opens a school, closes a prison.’ Mr. President, the reverse may be true: he who closes a school opens a prison. PUP is a great school. As a taxpayer who subsidizes public education through payment of taxes, I am very satisfied knowing that part of my money goes to public educational institutions such as PUP, UP, and others. By the way, Mr. President, Jobstreet survey shows that PUP tops the list of schools whose students are preferred by employers. Nalagpasan pa nga UP at Ateneo. Magagaling ang mga graduates ng PUP. Mr. President, PUP has more than 70,000 students getting good education. And those 70,000 have their families with aspirations for their children. How can you not care for PUP?”
Within a few days, the message was liked and shared by hundreds of people commenting how improper the presidential declaration was.
The Sunday Bulletin reported the slashing of the Education Department’s proposed P52-billion funding for the Senior High School Voucher Program to P31.18 billion, prompting a number of private educational institutions to warn that their operations might stop for inadequacy of subsidy to help millions of deserving but financially challenged high-school students. While the education department was reported to have the biggest portion of the P4.1-trillion government budget, it will be a total let-down if many will not graduate from high school.
Also, Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa criticized students for attending rallies. He said: “Pinapasok ng parents yung mga estudyante diyan para maging professional, hindi para maging kalaban sa gobyerno.” But students rally precisely because they want government to properly work and not to be mismanaged by abusive officials. Public officials with a mindset equating student protesters to government enemies have much to understand about the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and association. Moreover, protesting is in accord with the citizens’ fundamental right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
Universities are places where professors and students are encouraged to be critical in their thinking about anything and to be able to express their thoughts. Government must not interfere with the free exchange of ideas and must not be threatened by opposing views. Listening and considering them lead to the formulation of rational policies and new approaches in response to national problems.
Recently, Education Secretary Leonor Briones was reported by Inquirer as favoring the “no-homework-every weekend policy” for our grade/high-school students. She said “Ang gusto natin, lahat ng pormal na pag-aaral, assignments, projects, whatever, gawin sa loob ng eskwelahan. Pag-uwi nila, libre na sila, freetime na nila to be with their parents, with their friends.” This is non-sequitur.
Weekend homeworks do not necessarily negate family time. A well thought-of and tempered assignment can increase student interest, provide impetus to family bonding, and, in the same breadth, allow parents to be an active part in the educational guidance of our youth. A simple weekend homework of watching parents do home chores and listing them down is not very hard to do. Surely, it is far better than children playing computer games simulating the violent murder of people.
Our Constitution commands that, in education, the state shall inculcate respect for human rights, develop moral character and personal discipline, and encourage critical and creative thinking — all designed to enrich our democratic values. Is the present administration providing inspiration to achieve all these?
Tags: Atty. Mel Sta. Maria