Yesterday morning, I was pondering on what I would've said to the anti-TOFI people in UP if I still had classes in AS or CAL. I never had the chance to take Mrs. Winnie Monsod's life-changing development economics class until this semester. I wish I had taken it earlier but then again, I do think it takes some level of maturity in economics to fully understand the course.
I always remember how the activists in UP would declare how it was of utmost importance that we allocate more funds to tertiary education, especially here in UP. The funny thing about their propaganda is that they talk so much about the importance in UP when they forget that there is still PUP and TUP, and although technically, they aren't the National University, they still are state-owned universities that provide just as good an education as a lot of other universities. But going back, their main argument would be that we should not discriminate against those who could not pay for higher tuition in UP. Once they have established how UP is supposed to be state-owned and for the meritorious, they go on pinpointing that UP is turning conyo, anti-masses, and exclusive. And so I concede, I do wish that we could accommodate as much people as we could in the university because it does bring out so much private marginal benefit, but what does meritocracy have to do with tuition fee? First and foremost, with the adjustment of tuition fee, could they not apply to UP with a state-sponsored scholarship (under the STFAP) if they really are poor? The people who will most often get hit by the tuition fee increase are the middle class because they do not have enough to study in Ateneo or La Salle, neither are they willing to simply study in other colleges or universities. And for people who cannot afford their tuition even with the STFAP bracket, there are so many scholarships available out there. My organization gives out scholarships to deserving people. I do not wish to make a hasty generalization here, but I do wish that sometimes, people who say they cannot afford to study in UP try to look for private scholarships first. It's the same thing I would've done if I were studying abroad.
But more importantly, how dare they demand so much for tertiary education when primary and secondary education clearly lacks quality here in the Philippines. The cohort survival rate from grade one to grade two falls by almost 20% alone. By the end of fourth year high school, more than 50% of the students have dropped out. And if you think that these students who graduated fourth year high school are lucky, think again. Only 7% show mastery of the English language, 2% in Science, and 16% in Math. Trust me, after having to study in a government-owned university, so many people fail Math 11, one of the easiest math classes, a basic Algebra class because by their fourth year in high school, their mastery and coverage of Algebra only reaches the second quarter coverage of my second-year math syllabus. And even after college, only 2-7% of graduate applicants to Information and Communications Technology jobs are accepted. The irony is, most still require three months of in-house training before they become fully productive.
We have an underinvestment in teachers. Only 3.2% of our public expenditure is allocated to education. More than 50% of our teachers are non-majors in the very subject they teach. Back in high school, some of my teachers taught so poorly, especially in English, that even their students displayed greater mastery of the subject than them -- and to think, I studied in a private school. So many studies have shown that by just feeding these children a little, improving leaks in classrooms, or even bettering roads to travel to schools improve enrollment and achievement rates by a large percentage, and yet, what these activists ask for is to direct funds more to the university.
It's all well and good that they're demanding for more public expenditure. But if I were them, I would demand more for these public grade schools and high schools. Only three countries in the world (Nigeria, Morocco, and the Philippines) have less than 12 years of basic education. It's such a shame that the reason why we cannot expand more is because private costs are too high for some families. I honestly think that those who demand more subsidy for universities are selfish. Their private marginal returns exceed that of the social one.
So yes, I am angry at these people and I do wish that some day, I can get the chance to say all these to them. They are wasting so much of the nation's time and resources by cutting classes, trying to be socially relevant by screaming complex but fallible ideas (like when someone from STAND UP said that call centers are only portfolio investments... what a shame), dropping out of college for "the real world," or getting poor grades.
Please, everyone, let's be glad that we ended up in good colleges, and that we're smart enough (or well-endowed) to graduate with good grades and get good jobs.
National Statistics Office, July 2008. Net Enrollment Ratio at Elementary Level (SY 02-03 to SY 06-07).
National Statistics Office, July 2008. Net Enrollment Ratio at Secondary Level (SY 02-03 to SY 06-07).
TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Survey), 2003.