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Perils of Private Education

Welcome Message on the 51st ACSCU National Convention
Wesleyan University-Philippines, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija
May 7-9, 2012

This is to warmly welcome our distinguished University and College Presidents, School Directors and Principals, Deans and Trustees to the 2012 National Convention of the Association of Christian Schools, College and Universities (ACSCU).

We meet amidst ominous conditions and serious threats confronting our survival as educational institutions.

The 436 state and 33 local colleges and universities in the Philippines (including satellite campuses) have managed to whittle down the share of private tertiary schools from 90% in 1990 to 60% today. Although the per capita student costs of state and local colleges and universities are generally higher than private schools, their educational fees are made much lower by government subsidies. We can only limit but not prevent the exodus of our students to government schools, exacerbated as it is by financial difficulties triggered by recurring natural calamities, inflation, un-employment and other crises.

To be competitive, some sectors suggest that we become truly cutting-edge and innovative in our educational program offerings and learning methods. This is correct. However, the government does not allow us to offer these programs without corresponding regulations. And it takes years to formulate them, so that by the time they are issued, the mandated standards and technologies have either become dated or outmoded. While private schools suffer chronic delay before receiving permit to operate new educational programs, state and local colleges and universities by-pass the application process and duplicate the same programs very swiftly.

Offering new educational programs, curricula and courses require substantial investments in facilities, equipment and training. But again, the government has tied our hands with regulations controlling tuition fees and collections. It also wants to limit the educational offerings and clientele of private schools in accordance with specialized school typologies that are not appropriate business models considering the cyclical demand for professions.

The government is also determined to implement the K+12 Program, which is basically a name-game depending on what point-of-view is taken. Why can the government not call it Associate of Arts or Pre-Collegiate Qualification Program, instead, so that the proposed Grades 11 and 12 can be legally offered by tertiary institutions instead of just secondary schools, most of them public schools that do not even receive enough budget for their current enrollees, much like public pre-schools and elementary schools? Why run the risk of bankrupting private tertiary institutions with the loss of freshmen enrollees in the first two years of K+12 Program implementation, when it can be avoided?

Our national laws clearly express academic freedom. But they are contradicted by legislations and executive orders that are clearly unfair, if not detrimental, to all of us. It is imperative for us now to find the best solutions, and in ACSCU, make our united and unequivocal stand to fight for our right to survive and grow, and to continue to extend our brand of Christian Education to the world.