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Does the government inspire education?




Atty. Mel Sta. Maria

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?









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