DepEd: P397B needed to build schools and close classroom gap
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday said it would need around P397 billion to address the country’s backlog of classrooms.
During a hearing conducted by the Senate committee on basic education to reevaluate school opening dates and other education matters, DepEd assistant secretary for operations Francis Bringas said it currently has a backlog of 159,000 classrooms nationwide.
When asked by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian how much the DepEd needs to address this, Bringas said that the agency would need around P397 billion.
“Our average amount per classroom is a little over P2 million, [multiplied] by 159,000 [classrooms], that’s about P397 billion, just to fulfill the backlog,” said Bringas.
Gatchalian lamented this figure, pointing out that it was a “far cry” from the P10 billion DepEd received for its 2024 national classroom budget.
Bringas said the P10 billion 2024 budget was the same amount it received for 2023, which can only build more or less 7,100 classrooms.
According to Bringas, these backlogs also include schools struggling with congested classrooms and a high ratio of students to teachers.
Based on data presented during the hearing, 30 percent of kindergarten to Grade 6 classrooms nationwide are congested, with the percentage much higher in junior and senior high schools at 41 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
Bringas explained that DepEd implemented three school shifts in affected schools, mostly in highly urbanized areas, to cope with congestion.
“It’s a reduced hour, kung (if) three shifts, the usual start from 5:30 to 6 a.m., and then they usually end up around 7:30 p.m.,” she said.
The grouping means some students go to school from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., the second shift from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and the last from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“In Metro Manila, we have a lot of these because of high congestion even in some highly urbanized areas Calabarzon and Cebu,” Bringas said.
However, she assured the public that the DepEd is already trying to bring these shifts down to two, prioritizing the building of classrooms in these schools “so as not to compromise the time of the learners in the school.”
Bringas also said that the DepEd is looking into renting out private schools that have closed during the pandemic to use public schools.
Gatchalian, for his part, suggested that while it would be impossible to allocate P400 billion upfront to address the classroom shortage, the DepEd should expand its voucher system to allow public school students to transfer to private schools.
“May we request the DepEd to run simulations, for example just choose three cities that are congested … and look at the available capacities in the private schools and run the economics on the voucher system so that we can encourage public school students to go to private schools and take advantage of their excess capacity,” said Gatchalian.
“We can go beyond that, but let’s address the capacity issue first,” he added.