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DepEd to fund seniors’ private education

/ 03:08 AM September 09, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Education (DepEd) will introduce a voucher system that would grant high school students who cannot be accommodated in the public schools a tuition subsidy in a private school of their choice where they can graduate from senior high school.

The DepEd plans to distribute the vouchers before the start of school year 2016-17, the beginning of the nationwide implementation of the K to 12 program with two years of senior high school (Grades 11 and 12) added to the basic education curriculum.

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Henceforth, the vouchers program would become a permanent item in DepEd’s multibillion-peso annual budget, according to Education Undersecretary for Finance and Administration Francis Varela.

Varela said the vouchers program was part of the DepEd’s financial strategy for senior high school.

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He said the DepEd would still ask for a budget to build additional facilities, hire additional staff and build up resources in the public schools to handle the two added years of senior high school.

But the DepEd is also developing financial arrangements with private schools as well as state universities and colleges (SUCs) to absorb senior high school students, primarily those who graduated from public high schools, he said.

“At the moment, the program or mechanism that we are most likely to adopt is a voucher program for senior high school. This voucher program can also be used, although details have to be refined, for students to go into SUCs as well,” Varela said.

A number of public and private colleges and universities are expected to offer senior high school by 2016 to mitigate the financial impact of having no or few college enrollees during the transition period to K to 12.

Under the constitutional mandate of a free basic education, there are some 36,000 public elementary schools against 6,000 private elementary schools and around 7,000 public high schools against some 1,000 private high schools.

Of the 1,683 colleges and universities, 643 are public-run, including 110 SUCs.

The DepEd has yet to set the peso amount of the voucher.

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The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the K to 12 law states that the financial assistance to be given to students should not exceed what the DepEd has determined to be the cost of education per student in the public school system.

The DepEd has computed the current cost of keeping a student in the public school system at around P14,000 per year.

Around 800,000 of the 1.4 million students in private schools are subsidized by the DepEd through the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE).

For this year, the GASTPE budget is around P7 billion. Next year’s proposed GASTPE allocation is around P7.8 billion, according to Varela.

Under an Education Services Contracting (ESC) scheme, the GASTPE tuition subsidy is currently at P10,000 for a student in a private school in Metro Manila and P6,500 per student elsewhere.

The GASTPE funds are jointly managed by the DepEd and the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE).

Varela said the vouchers that would be paid to private schools “would be a bit higher” than those that would be paid to SUCs since the latter already receive government support.

He said the budget to be proposed in 2015 would include an allocation for the senior high school vouchers.

The number of vouchers would depend on how many of the 1.1 million students who will be graduating from public schools in 2016 will enroll in Grade 11 “and how many of them can be absorbed or be willing to go to private schools.”

He said the vouchers will be given out in March 2015 before the students graduate from junior high school.

The DepEd also expects around 150,000 GASTPE recipients to graduate from private high schools in March 2016. They will likely continue to be subsidized by the government when they move to senior high school.

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TAGS: Department of Education, Education, Francis Varela, Government Subsidy, private schools, tuition subsidy, vouchers program
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