Mr. President, Please Sign the Tertiary Education Act!

tertiary educ iiI would like to reiterate our request to our President to sign the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA).

I say this especially to our economic managers and to our friends at the National Economic Development Authority – whose chair is none other than the President himself, but whose members like the Hon. Ernesto Pernia and the Hon Benjamin Diokno with the President preside over the economic development of the nation.

I invite the President and the other economic managers of the country to embrace this legislation as indispensable for the realization of the National Development Plan whose end vision is Ambisyon Natin 2040.  This is a good vision for the nation:  the idea of a society where there are no scandalously rich and where there are no egregiously poor; the idea of a society where smart people work productively in the Philippines generating national wealth that is equitably distributed; the idea where all participate pro-actively in nation building and all without exception benefit from development;  the idea where families can come together on weekends using public transportation that works in order to enjoy the blessings of family.  This is the vision that the President and his economic managers should be constantly challenging all citizens of the Philippines to cooperate and collaborate together to realize.  It is a vision that Filipinos of all ethnicities and religions can embrace.

To transition to this society where social justice is achieved from the confused divided, violent, and warring society that we have today will take much doing.  But it is a transition that the vision itself should inspire and guide.

It will not be achieved by just building more roads and bridges.  Roads and bridges will not solve the social injustice in the country.  Pouring billions and billions aggressively into physical infrastructure without addressing the problem of social injustice in the country will only exacerbate the social injustice.  It will only provide better infrastructure for the elite to more efficiently exploit the poverty and ignorance of the poor.

That is not the spirit of the President.  That is not the genius of Ambisyon Natin 2040.

The genius of Ambisyon Natin 2040 is social justice.  But social justice is a profoundly people thing.  It is not something mechanistically achieved and attained by Presidential fiat.  It is not the necessary outcome of any rebellion, nor of any war.  It is rather something motivated by a worthy vision like Ambisyon Natin 2040 that draws out of self-centered often selfish people the free and intelligent cooperation to achieve a common good.  Ambisyon Natin 2040 is a worthy statement of a national common good.

In the achievement of this national common good all must participate freely and intelligently.  The President and the economic managers must continually call forth this free and intelligent cooperation.

It is education that enables the participation.  Basic education provides every Filipino with the basic knowledge and skills, including basic knowledge of Philippine history, the goals of our nation in Ambisyon Natin 2040, and basic skills in socialization in a diverse culture as the Philippines. Higher education deepens critical insight into the Filipino/a as a responsible person in human society and empowers the citizen to freely contribute to a humane Philippine society; it also provides crucial professional training for his or her productive contribution to the Philippine economy.

The UAQTEA is the President’s and his economic managers’ vehicle of empowering larger numbers of people to participate productively in realizing the shared prosperity envisioned for Ambisyon Natin 2040.  Here, wealth is created and equitably distributed not by an exclusive elite in imperial Manila but by an increasingly large smart middle class that exploits a knowledge economy to increasingly peripheralize, and eventually eliminate, both the scandalously rich and the destitute poor.

Unto this end, President and the economic managers through the UAQTEA can channel the current voluntary collaboration between the private and public schools, (COCOPEA AND PASUC) towards forming the Filipino citizens and professionals necessitated by Ambisyon Natin 2040.

If Ambisyon Natin is truly to be achieved by 2040 let the UAQTEA’s Tertiary Education Subsidy and its loan funds, and the funds to be channeled to students by the United Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST), help make this possible.  These funds could support students embracing the goals of Ambisyon Natin 2040 and willing to dedicate themselves and their professional lives to its fulfillment in quality higher education institutions with functioning quality assurance mechanisms aligned with the ASEAN quality assurance network, and not in diploma mills that undermine not only personal lives but Ambisyon Nation 2040 itself.  It is the ambition of the vision itself that insists that these numbers of highly educated be not just be partial but universal, embracing all. Therefore, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education.  Where people are left behind in education, they are prey to poverty, manipulation and exploitation.  Where higher education is unevenly enjoyed, social justice is not achieved.

With UAQTEA let a functioning dialogue between NEDA and the higher educational institutions flourish to name the qualifications of professionals and the qualifications of citizenship that are required by Ambisyon Natin 2040.  In every region of the Philippines, where public and private universities collaborate in higher education, let it be stated what it required in entrepreneurs, business managers, accountants, doctors, nurses, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, engineers, teachers, mechanics, computer scientists, IT experts, statisticians.  Let is also be stated what is required in social scientists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists  and even religious leaders are needed.  Let it be clarified what is expected of educated citizens in Ambisyon Natin 2040.   Then let the HEIs work together in empowering students to embrace these roles.

Because the chances of this government achieving Ambisyon Natin 2040 are increased through UAQTEA, and because higher education institutions are eager to contribute to the human infrastructure needs of Ambisyon Natin 2040, the President should sign UAQTEA into law.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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