MANILA, Philippines—Late enrollees in the public schools would still be accepted, but they may be referred to “nearby” schools or to a home study program (HSP) to prevent classroom congestion, an education official said on the opening of another school year on Monday.
“We will still accept them but we [will] give priority to the early enrollees,” said Jesus Mateo, Department of Education (DepEd) assistant secretary for planning.
“The first option is to refer (the late enrollees) to schools that are not congested. In high school, the independent learners will be referred to a home study program or flexible learning options, but we will ask the parents first,” he said.
Under the home study program for high school, students go through their learning modules under parental guidance and meet with their teachers only once or twice a week for monitoring and testing, Mateo explained.
The DepEd official said students who enrolled only at the start of classes could not insist on being accepted to a public school that already had more students than available classrooms and teachers.
Because of the limited number of classrooms, Mateo said some public schools had resorted to triple shifts, from early morning to early evening, to accommodate the students, “a phenomenon caused by late enrollees.”
Mateo said parents and guardians who failed to enrol their children early made it difficult for schools to plan on how to accommodate the enrollees.
Despite the DepEd’s call for students to enroll as early as Jan. 26 this year, only 10.7 million had enrolled in the public schools as of June 3, the start of classes, the education official said.
Public school students have until June 8 to enrol, Mateo said, adding that the DepEd expects this year’s enrolment in the public schools to reach 20.8 million.
The home study program has been criticized by some quarters, who accuse school officials of misusing it to address the classroom shortage.
Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said the DepEd was using the program “to ease overcrowding in schools” and “are compelling students to enroll in it, even if they are willing and able to attend regular classes.”
He added that “overaged children, low achievers or repeaters, those with disciplinary problems [and] working students are the ones chosen for HSP. They are told that the school would only accept them if they enroll in the [program].”
Tinio said the HSP was meant only for working students or those with special needs. Despite that restriction, the ACT official said that Quezon City had 10,000 students on home study during the previous school year.
Tinio also cited the Batasan Hills National High School, which he claimed had over 2,000 students, or 15 percent of its anticipated enrollment, under the program this year.
But Mateo denied that the home study program was being forced on students to decrease the student population in the public schools, and added that overcrowding in schools occurred only in densely populated areas.
He added that “overcrowding (in public schools) happens because the (students) enroll at the last minute. There is congestion because of the lack of early registration.”
Mateo said limited campus space precluded the building of new classrooms in Metro Manila schools, while bureaucratic requirements made it difficult to demolish existing classrooms to put up multistory school buildings.
DepEd National Capital Region Director Luz Almeda said 33 of the 760 public schools in Metro Manila were experiencing overcrowded classrooms this year, with 12 elementary schools and 21 high schools having class sizes above 55.
Last year about 100 public schools in Metro Manila were overcrowded, Almeda said.