P31B paid to private schools to declog public schools better spent on building classrooms – expert
MANILA, Philippines — A recent study showed that over the last six years, the government has spent around P31 billion as payment to private schools that took in thousands of students who could not be accommodated anymore in public schools.
With the full implementation of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) senior high school program in 2016 and the rise of low-fee private schools, Canadian researcher Curtis Riep expressed concern that the government, through its voucher program, would pour more money into the private sector that could otherwise be used to build more school buildings that would address the country’s perennial classroom backlogs.
Currently, poor but deserving students get to enroll in private schools through the DepEd’s Education Service Contracting (ESC) program, the main component of the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (Gastpe) law that was passed in 1989. Under the ESC, the government subsidizes a student’s tuition in a private school by as much as P10,000 for every school year.
Riep’s research—funded by Education International, a worldwide organization of teachers in 170 countries, and conducted between May and June—found that in 2014, around 800,000 students, or almost 60 percent of the 1.3 million private high school students, were beneficiaries of the government’s educational financial aid. Under this setup, Riep said that aside from decongresting public schools, the government was also able to send students to school at a fraction of the cost, since parents paid up the balance of the child’s school fees.
“A lack of political will to finance public education sufficiently in the Philippines has culminated in an overburdened system unable to accommodate all students effectively,” Riep said in his 49-page research.
He added that the situation allowed for the “corporate sector ‘solution’ put in place by Apec (Affordable Private Education Centers) that aims to supply ‘affordable’ private education to large numbers of ‘economically disadvantaged’ Filipino students who are willing to pay for basic education.”
Curtis has warned that the rise of low-fee private schools such as Apec—a joint venture between Ayala Corp. and UK’s Pearson—would “undermine the right to free and quality education” unless it is “properly regulated by the government in order to safeguard education as a human right and a common good.” He added that since Apec’s tuition has only been at P24,850, it has remained an attractive option, especially to those who would qualify for the DepEd’s voucher program of as much as P22,500.
He noted that students have been at a disadvantage in enrolling themselves at Apec schools since majority of the teachers they hire “are not qualified to teach secondary school.” Riep added that the classrooms have not been conducive to learning since these were housed in “low-cost commercial space which has undesirable effects on teaching and learning.”
Riep said that the government’s method of subsidizing students’ education in private schools instead of investing in the public education was “bad because we should not be investing and filling the pockets of private corporations especially when talking about societal good such as education.” SFM