Education International
Education International

Philippines: corporate inroads on public education

published 22 November 2015 updated 24 November 2015

The latest in-depth Education International study reveals the extent to which the Philippine government has opened its doors to the rampant growth of privatised education, putting corporate interests ahead of its children and their families.

New independent research has pulled back the curtain on the Philippine government’s decision to outsource its education sector to private corporations set on selling it back to the poorest students. “ Corporatised Education in the Philippines: Pearson, Ayala Corporation, and the emergence of affordable private education centers (APEC),” by Curtis B. Riep, details how private secondary schools are growing at an alarming rate. Among them, so called low-fee for profit schools, funded by conglomerate Pearson, are increasing their market presence by taking advantage of the poorest within the country’s secondary education sector.

"Rather than investing in quality free primary and secondary education for all, the Philippines government is encouraging the growth of for-profit Affordable Private Education Centres (APEC) private schools. Fees charged by APEC represent about 40% of the income of the poor in the Philippines. That’s hardly affordable," said EI's Angelo Gavrielatos at a press conference this morning in Manila.

EI Executive Board Member France Castro, General Secretary of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), one of the EI affiliates in the country, added: "In the Phillipines, less than 3% of GDP is invested in education – half the recommended amount. We call on our government to enforce regulations that guarantee every child is taught by a qualified teacher in a safe environment with a quality curriculum."

Making quality public education free for all

With the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on education making it clear that “all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education” by 2030, there is international consensus that for-profit education is not the way. However, Riep shows that the Philippines are neglecting their obligation to guarantee free public education for all.

Since 2009 the government’s allocation of funds to private school chains has increased to more than PHP 31 Billion, nearly $700 million USD, which Riep points out could have paid for 60 thousand more classrooms and accommodated roughly 3 million students.

The report reveals how for-profit schools are using the education system, with the aid of public money, to produce a generation of young people programmed to work as “semi-skilled... cheap labour” for a plethora of corporations in the Philippines. At the same time, low-fee for profit schools are employing untrained teachers for low wages at the cost of quality education.

“There is international consensus that for-profit education is not the way,” wrote EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen in his Op-Ed on the study. “But instead of a free quality education, Filipino youth are being left to pay for the cheap version. Low-fee private education comes at a price that the Philippines, its teenagers and their future cannot afford. It is time that the Philippine government comes to its senses.”

Commissioned by Education International, the study was written by Curtis B. Riep, a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada. His research interests involve the interdisciplinary study of global political economy and privatizations in education with a specific focus on the growth of multinational education corporations and their operations in various contexts. His research is supported by the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada.