Should business take priority over education? | Inquirer Opinion

Should business take priority over education?

/ 12:02 AM March 12, 2015

I disagree with Eusebio Tanco of STI Education System Holdings that the problem facing my alma mater, the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), is simply a case of contractual conflict between his group and the Benitez family (“It must be run as a business,” Letters, 3/5/15).

While it is true that education, to be sustainable, must be supported by a sound business policy that allows an educational institution to perform its mandate properly, business viability should always take a back seat to the primary objective of a school, which is to provide quality education. Problems will always arise when the priorities of business and education are skewed in favor of the former.

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The controversy over PWU and its basic education arm, JASMS (Jose Abad Santos Memorial School), over Tanco’s claim of unmet contractual obligations of the Benitez family has put the spotlight on the relationship between business and education and, more importantly, on the proper prioritization of business and education.

I feel that there is something inherently wrong in the argument that business must be prioritized over education if the purpose of education is to be served. This is a wrong model, and it is one that demeans an institution like PWU. Tanco’s philosophy that education must be run as a business provides the justification that it is okay to commercialize schools because the policy will bring in more profits, and that it is totally acceptable for businessmen like him to make their quest for profit the main engine for their so-called education thrust.

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This is why as a member of the PWU and JASMS community, I find it disappointing that Tanco has dragged the issue down to the level of “contractual commitments” and bottom-line management. I also find it unacceptable that Tanco is trying to squeeze as much money as he can out of this issue under the guise of “saving” PWU.

From my understanding, Tanco is owed P448 million, incurred since 2011, and he is now charging P923 million. He now holds the future of PWU hostage, and to back this move, he wants to foreclose on PWU assets. This strategy clearly puts PWU at risk, but the real tragedy is that Tanco does not seem to care what happens to the university. To my mind, this is the real meaning of “education must be run as a business.”

The downside to this is that schools can be sold off or closed down according to the gospel of profit. Once we accept this practice as the rule rather than the exception, then education is truly at risk in this country.

—PACITA “CHIT” JUAN, founder, ECHOstore

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TAGS: Benitez family, Eusebio Tanco, Jose Abad Santos Memorial School, Philippine Women's University, STI Holdings
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