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Philippines: shining a light on a shadowy edu-business

published 9 November 2016 updated 14 November 2016

In a forum held at Manila City Polytechnic University, teacher unionists and students could gain first-hand information about the operations of the so-called Affordable Private Education Centers in their country.

More than 250 members and leaders of teachers’ unions, students and attendants from the general public have participated in a forum dedicated to the launch of a research piece on corporatised education in the Philippines.

To many of the attendants, the term “corporatised education” did not mean much before entering the Balagtas Hall of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines on October 29. But the event, co-organised by Education International (EI) affiliates in the country Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Teachers' Organisation of the Philippine Public Sector (TOPPS), Samahang Manggagawang Pilipino-National Alliance of Teachers and Office Workers (SMP-NATOW) and Federation of Free Workers (FFW), was more than eye-opening.

As part of the national campaign against the privatisation and commercialisation of education in the Philippines, the 3-hour long forum explained the corporate takeover of education represented by the so-called Affordable Private Education Centers (APEC schools) in the country.

Disregarding the Constitution

These schools are a joint venture of the global edu-business Pearson and the local business giant Ayala Corporation in the Philippines, and often operate through exemptions granted by the national Department for Education by virtue of a Memorandum of Understanding, in clear violation of the constitutional norms on the provision of basic education in the country.

Curtis Riep, author of the research, who presented the key findings to the audience, explained that APEC schools operate in rented unused space such as commercial buildings, and lack proper labs, libraries and other related facilities. Standardised and scripted lesson plans are delivered by unlicensed, underqualified and poorly paid teachers with no academic freedom, he added. More worryingly, the transfer of public funds to private corporations through the voucher system has drained 12 Billion Philippine pesos from the public system to private schools like APEC.

Policy leaders take action

High-level attendants like Congressman Antonio Tinio said that the increasing privatisation of education was a threat to the right to education and that this tendency needed to be “challenged immediately”.  He shared the plans of the government to increase the amount allocated for the voucher system to more than 20 billion pesos. Through the vouchers public money is being transferred to the for-profit schools instead of being invested in public education, he noted worriedly.

Tinio announced his plan of moving a resolution in the parliament in coming days against the APEC schools and demanding the review of the MOU by the Department for Education.