‘No permit, no exam’ prohibition is counterproductive | Inquirer Opinion

‘No permit, no exam’ prohibition is counterproductive

/ 05:04 AM December 14, 2023

A bicameral conference committee is meeting to reconcile Senate Bill No. 1359 and House Bill Nos. 6483 and 7584 for the enactment of the proposed “No Permit, No Exam Prohibition Act.”

The proposed law repeats the state’s declaration of policy to promote the right of all citizens to quality education and “access to educational services regardless of personal or socioeconomic circumstances.” It is supposed to cover all public and private schools, but since Republic Act No. 10391 enacted in 2017 has made public tertiary education free, and public basic education had all along been free even before that, it is easy to see that the proposed law will affect almost solely private schools, colleges, and universities.

The proposed law prohibits schools from imposing “[any policy to prevent] students with outstanding financial or property obligations, [such as unpaid tuition and other school fees,] from taking examinations or any form of educational assessment with the rest of the [students].” It is easy to see that this law may spell the financial viability of private schools. It unnecessarily encroaches on private schools’ financial operations which may spell financial doom for them in the end.


Collection efficiency will surely be affected by the proposed law. The schools will have no mechanism to collect the needed cash flow to pay their financial obligations to teachers, utilities, creditors, suppliers, etc. This will have a big impact on small- and medium-sized schools trying to make both ends meet; these schools, as a result of the pandemic, are already on the verge of closing down.


The closure of private schools will force students to go to public schools which are already congested and overcrowded. It will be more cost-effective for the government to support private education through government subsidies, scholarships, and other grants than to put up school buildings, classrooms, and laboratories, hire new teachers and personnel, and acquire properties for new campuses.

In reality, private schools are already allowing the practice of approving promissory notes for meritorious cases. But we cannot tolerate delinquent parents who do not honor their promissory notes.

Disallowing students to take the exams together with the rest of the students is more disadvantageous to the schools because teachers need to prepare another set of exams, schedule separate examination days, and very often the integrity of the exams is compromised.

To enroll in a private school is to enter into a social contract with duties, obligations, and responsibilities for both parties. The schools have the inherent right to set their standards and manual of operations to run a good school. For the government to interfere and make it unlawful to set standards, rules, and procedures in ensuring the financial viability and sustainability of the schools, especially in collecting on time the tuition and other fees for services the students have already availed of, is very unjust for the schools.

Charity, compassion, and empathy cannot be legislated. They can only be encouraged, recognized, and given due respect.

We understand that not allowing students to take the exams because of nonpayment of their financial obligations can be traumatic. That is why, we school administrators allow promissory notes even in the absence of the law.


We also understand that we cannot price ourselves out of the market. Otherwise, we lose students.

But Congress must not legislate something that will open the floodgate for abuses by students and their parents delinquent in their payments. It will be much better if the issue is addressed at the school level during school consultations with parents, students, and other stakeholders.

The best investment for this country is education. Allowing the schools to complement each other, giving them the democratic space to decide for themselves how they can provide quality education with lesser interference from the government, will be the best thing the government can do.

Outstanding schools in this country such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and others get international rankings because money is not their problem. But provincial schools trying to survive and yet producing good results in board exams should be given recognition and the freedom to set policies and regulations on their own. In fact, these are the schools that are more compassionate and effective in nurturing students to pursue their dreams.

I hope our legislators will listen to reason and not allow their political ambitions or tendency to pander to populism to muddle the issues concerning education. And if ever the law is passed by Congress, the president is urged to veto it. I have yet to see countries that have given a premium to quality education pass a law as counterproductive as this.


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Marist Brother Manuel V. de Leon is president of the Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos City, Mindanao, and trustee-at-large of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.

TAGS: Commentary, no permit no exam policy

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