Strengthen State Support to Public Tertiary Education Institutions! No to Amending the Constitution to Allow Further Foreign Control of Philippine Higher Education

In Education for Development, Events on October 13, 2011 at 11:07 am

Presentation to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments

House of Representatives

October 11, 2011

by Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, IBON Foundation Board Vice Chairperson

Photo by Iggy Agbayani

The committee’s formulation of the topic of today’s meeting “the feasibility of amending the restrictive provision of the 1987 Constitution..”   indicates a bias for amending the economic and social  provisions of the 1987 Constitution in favor of further opening up of the economy to foreign investors. Such bias, I presume, is based on an assumption that economic growth and the country’s development can only be achieved by expanding foreign ownership and foreign investment in Philippine natural resources, industrial lands, media, professions and tertiary education.

Ibon Foundation, of which I am a member of the Board of Trustees, has already presented persuasive arguments against such assumption in its December 14, 2010 submission to this Committee.[1] I quote the most relevant excerpt:

FDI ostensibly goes towards building a strong productive economic base. However there is nothing to indicate that all this FDI has contributed to creating a strong domestic economy able to create jobs on a sustainable basis. On the contrary, the number of jobless Filipinos has continued to rise and the 2001-2009 period is the worst nine-year period of recorded unemployment in the country’s history (even before the global crisis). While jobs in export processing zones or special economic zones have been increasing, these have not been able to offset job losses and stunted industrial development elsewhere in the economy. There will also be other costs as foreign investors use their accumulated capital and other capabilities to their advantage. Local enterprises and businesses, already reeling from decades of “globalization”, will be further  weakened or taken over. The country’s scarce mineral, forestry and fishery resources will be exploited with scant benefits for the local economy – and in some cases even lost forever. Local communities will be dislocated and land prices will be driven up. The prices of utilities and social services will keep rising and become more unaffordable for poor Filipinos. 

My presentation this afternoon  focuses  on why I am strongly opposed to amending the Constitution to allow further  “liberalizing investments in educational institutions by allowing foreign investment in tertiary education”

What are the constitutional guarantees regarding education?

Section 17 of Article II Declaration of Principles and State Policies, states that “(t)he State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progess and promote total human liberation and development.”

Article XIV, Education and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports contains specific sections on State responsibilities with regard to education. These are:

Section 1. The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.

Section 2. The State shall:

 1.       Establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society;

Section 3. 

 1.       All educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the curricula.

 2.       They shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency.

Section 4. 

 1.       The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions.

 2.       Educational institutions, other than those established by religious groups and mission boards, shall be owned solely by citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens. The Congress may, however, require increased Filipino equity participation in all educational institutions. The control and administration of educational institutions shall be vested in citizens of the Philippines.

In effect liberalizing higher education in the Philippines would mean amending these Constitutional provisions : “Educational institutions, other than those established by religious groups and mission boards, shall be owned solely by citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens “ and “(t)he control and administration of educational institutions shall be vested in citizens of the Philippines.”

Why we are against further allowing  foreign investment in tertiary education?


The main arguments presented by proponents of amending the Constitution to allow foreign investment in tertiary education in the country are framed on a strong belief of education not as a service but as a commodity. Hence arguments such as extending the range of choices for the students, enabling the country to become more globally competitive and opening the market as a member of WTO among others are used to buttress their position of opening  Philippine higher education to foreign investors.

The “right of all citizens to quality education at all levels”  is a right guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.  Foreign institutions interested in investing in higher education in the country are not propelled by the view of education as a right but  view education as a business and as potential source of profits. Such view will further commercialize education—meaning access is only open to those who can afford it; courses are offered not on the basis of national development goals or of developing patriotism and pride in one’s national identity and faculty and staff evaluation are not on the basis of competence and service to the nation but on the basis of efficiency.

The de-capitalization of the country will be accelerated. While foreign investors are supposed to bring in capital to the country, earnings are repatriated to the mother country. Hence it is not surprising that advance capitalist countries like the United States and Australia are the most avid advocates for opening higher education in developing countries to foreign investors. The United States earned as much as US$13.4 billion in export revenues from education in 2003. Australia, the third –largest exporter of higher education services after the US and the earned A$5.9B in this area in 2004 -its fourth largest source of export earnings.

Foreign investments in higher education in the Philippines will have a similar impact on domestic institutions as foreign manufacturing investors had on domestic industries—the closure of local institutions. But unlike in manufacturing, the impact on the Philippines will not be limited to economic losses such as loss of jobs or the further de-industrialization of the country. Opening the gates of tertiary education in the country to foreign investors will accelerate the attack against the very soul and psyche of the nation. Education together with science and technology, arts, culture and sports are aimed at “foster(ing) patriotism and nationalism, accelerat(ing) social progress, and promot(ing) total human liberation and development”. [2] Foreign education providers are not, cannot be, expected to adhere to these goals as their priority.

I call on the members of the House of Representatives to protect the already very limited provisions in our Constitution upholding patriotism and nationalism; to address the crisis of our educational system by strengthening state support for our public basic and tertiary education institutions and to not, I implore you, not to sell these institutions to the highest foreign bidder.

Maraming salamat.

[1] “On Charter Change and Foreign Investments”. IBON Foundation, December 14, 2010.Submitted to the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments. http://www.scribd.com/doc/45764446/IBON-Cha-Cha-and-FDI-Econ-Folly-Dec-10, accessed September 9, 2011

[2] Article II, Declaration of Principles and State Policies,  Section 17.  1987 Philippine Constitution


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