DepEd eyes using closed private schools to ease classroom shortage
MANILA, Philippines —The Department of Education (DepEd) is considering repurposing empty private schools as a solution to the shortage of classroom space.
Davao de Oro 1st District Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora revealed the plan of DepEd on Thursday during deliberations on the proposed P710 billion budget of DepEd for 2023 before the House plenary.
The disclosure was made after the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro asked Zamora, who sponsored DepEd’s budget on the House floor, about how the agency plans to resolve the classroom shortage. Castro said public schools lack 91,000 classrooms.
“As to the detailed activities being implemented now by the Department; it actually implements the shifting of classes just to address the shortage of classrooms. One of the strategies also that is being applied now by the Department is its coordination with private schools that are now closing and exploring the possibility of partnering with them and utilizing the private, the school buildings of this private school,” Zamora said.
“So that these can be used by our learners in the public school because the construction of new classroom buildings, Mr. Speaker, cannot just be implemented in one year or two years’ time and therefore, several strategies are being introduced and be a part of the strategies that I mentioned, Mr. Speaker,” she added.
But Castro asserted that the inadequate number of classrooms had been around even before the COVID-19 pandemic – even pointing out that DepEd’s solution only came about because the health crisis forced some private schools to suffer low enrollment rates, to close down.
“Pero sinasabi natin dito ‘yung backlog ng 91,000 na classrooms ay before, pre-pandemic pa iyon, at hindi ito nagagawa. At sa report din naman ng DepEd na halos 25 percent lang mula do’n sa backlog natin ‘yong nagawa, kaya nga may naiwanan na 91,000,” Castro said.
(But we are saying that we have a backlog of 91,000 classrooms even before, pre-pandemic, and this was not addressed. And also, based on the report of the DepEd, only nearly 25 percent of the backlog was addressed; that’s why we have a shortage of 91,000.)
“So ‘yun po, ano ‘yung ating… ang tanong doon, kung paano natin ito mafa-facilitate at mapapabilisan kasi ang lumalaki po ‘no at [ang nilalagyan natin ng] dagdag na budget [ay] ‘yung ating facilities pero ‘yong absorptive capacity ng Department of Education in terms of building ng mga rooms ay low,” she added.
(So that is our question regarding that issue, how do we facilitate and expedite the construction of classrooms because the budget for facilities that Congress is giving DepEd is increasing but the absorptive capacity of the Department in terms of building classrooms remains low.)
Zamora referred the party-list lawmaker to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) since the issue touches on the absorptive capacity for building classrooms. Although Zamora also assured Castro that DepEd and DPWH are working things out to hasten the construction of classrooms.
“As with the absorption capacity, Mr. Speaker, in the construction of a building that was mentioned earlier, the implementation of the construction is [largely reliant on] the [DPWH], and therefore, the [DepEd] and DPWH are now working together, looking at the gaps and trying to [iron things out to] improve the absorptive capacity of these agencies,” Zamora said.
The lack of classrooms in public schools has been an enduring problem in the country.
DepEd had even admitted that funding cuts and delays in approving its annual budget undermined its years-long effort to address the problem.
In a statement released in January 2020, DepEd said: “The decrease in funding for the Basic Education Inputs program, particularly for the new construction of school buildings, is a huge challenge to the department.”
It noted that such circumstances “adversely affect the programming of a lower classroom-to-student ratio for the coming school years.” With reports from Kristelle Razon, trainee
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