Today at the UP College of Education, I shared some reflections on Komunibersidad and Public-Private Partnership or PPP.
The occasion was a workshop among the UP College of Education, the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) and E-Net Philippines. The three are cooperating in a research project on public-private partnership in education.
From the point of view of E-Net, the problematique is this: We call our advocacy campaign the “3 Rs” – rights, responsibility, resources.
1) We believe that education is a basic right, and we hold the Philippine government to its official commitment to achieve Education for All by 2015.
2) We believe that education for all, or more precisely “quality basic education for all” is the responsibility of government.
3) We advocate that enough public resources should be allocated to achieve quality basic education for all. We have a provision in our constitution that education should be the biggest item in the national budget.
Within this advocacy framework, what is the place of private sector participation in the delivery of quality basic education for all? Is it a necessary supplement or complement to inadequate public resources and capabilities? Isn’t there a danger that it gives the government an excuse not to increase the public resources needed to fulfill its responsibility? Does it not reflect the ideological trend of making the state “retreat” in favor of a supposedly more efficient private sector?
Local government participation
Even before talking about PPP, there is an important issue we need to address within the public sector. The Local Government Code which devolved more authority and responsibility to local governments, included the setting up of Local School Boards that administer a Special Education Fund.
During our workshops with Indonesian counterparts, their criticism of their national government’s failure to provide enough resources, extended to calling the devolution of some responsibility for basic education as a “creeping form of privatization.”
Although we understand the political context that generated such a critique, E-Net Philippine thinks such a critique is overstated.
In fact, both E-Net and Synergeia have favorable experiences in promoting LGU co-responsibility for basic education. The late Jesse Robredo even pioneered what he called “re-engineering the local school boards” to increase the participation of parents and community leaders, with positive results.
Private sector participation
Basic education in the Philippines has never been provided through a purely public system. At least 10 percent of elementary education has been private. If we include early childhood education, private sector participation is even greater. For some time, in secondary education private sector participation was up to 50 percent, until the economic crisis and the increase of public school teachers salaries reduced it to around 20 percent.
The Philippine government’s commitment to PPP is expressed in the increased budget for GASTPE – government assistance to students and teachers of private education.
E-Net’s previous research into GASTPE did not dwell on the legitimacy of such public-private partnership. Instead, it developed case studies about its positive and negative features and results. The UP workshop is geared to crafting a future joint research project of UP, UAB and E-Net.
What about community participation?
Although “community” is technically “private” rather than public, E-Net does not want to subsume it under the category of private sector, since this connotes for-profit corporate organizations.
While we press government, national and local, to assume responsibility for quality basic education, we also believe what Jesse Robredo said about making education ultimately a “community responsibility.”
This goes beyond the usual practice of using the PTCA – parents, teachers, and community association – to raise funds. It includes participation in local school governance councils. It is especially important in the expanded development of ALS – Alternative Learning Systems, and ADM – Alternative Delivery Modes.
Komunibersidad and research into PPP
Before the start of the workshop, I was conversing with the three delegates from the University of Barcelona. I told them the story of Isabelo de los Reyes and how he met the anarcho-syndicalists in the Barcelona prison, which led to his founding the Union Obrera Democratica, which was also one of the base for the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
They asked if E-net Philippines has regular links with our Latin American counterparts. I said that it is difficult for civil society networks to meet across the globe, since our institutional resources and capabilities are limited. Probably there are more possibilities between universities.
On the other hand they said that inter-university exchanges have their own limitations, and may be limited to academic studies that are not geared to influencing public policy.
That gave me another angle for the idea of Komunibersidad – a partnership between community and university to develop a research-based policy advocacy agenda.
After the opening session, in another conversation, E=net and the UP College of Education agreed to meet soon to develop this partnership.