Solon slams P22-b cut in state colleges’ allocation
AHEAD of school opening today, a lawmaker on Sunday slammed the Aquino administration’s policy against the poor and warned of creeping privatization after the Palace approved a 10-fold increase in subsidies for private schools, from P758.6 million to P7 billion.
The whopping increase in private subsidies came while the budget allocation for 111 state colleges and universities was slashed from the proposed P45 billion to P23.8 billion, said ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio.
At the same time, thousands of students are being forced into home schooling due to the lack of classrooms, with not a centavo being spent to help enroll 4.6 million children aged 12 to 15 in public high schools, Tinio added.
Tinio questioned Education Secretary Armin Luistro’s claim that the expansion and increase of Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) funding was intended to “democratize access to quality education across the country.”
“Is GASTPE really about democratizing access to education? Is it helping those who need most help from the government, or is it reinforcing existing inequalities by subsidizing students who can afford the privilege and enjoy the advantages of a private school education?” Tinio asked.
Tinio noted there has been a massive increase in government subsidy to private schools through GASTPE under the Aquino government.
“Under Arroyo administration in 2003, the DepEd budget for GASTPE was only P758.6 million, benefiting some 250,000 grantees. This school year, GASTPE is now a whopping P7 billion intended for only one million grantees. That’s nearly a tenfold increase in government allocation,” Tinio said.
He said GASTPE, which has been around since the 1980s, is an early example of a public-private partnership scheme for providing basic social services.
“The massive expansion of GASTPE indicates that government is heading towards a high school education system, including the new Senior High School component of K to 12, that is extensively privatized,” Tinio said.
“Is this consistent with the government’s constitutional mandate to establish and maintain a system of free high school education?”
Tinio also said the President’s bias against the poor showed since there was not a single centavo allocated for some 4.6-million public high school students aged 12-15 to help them enroll in high school.
“By 2016, the Aquino administration is planning to subcontract government’s duty to provide education to nearly half of the country’s senior high school students to private schools,” Tinio said.
Tinio acknowledged that the private education sector as a whole benefits significantly from GASTPE.
“It provides much needed aid not only to the student-grantees, but also to private school owners, their teachers, and employees,” he said.
“Up to 80 percent of all private high schools depend on the GASTPE to remain viable,” he said.
Tinio said Luistro has announced that the DepEd will use an expanded Education Services Contracting scheme under GASTPE to encourage private schools to put up Senior High Schools (SHS) to accommodate up to 40 percent of a projected one million incoming SHS students by 2016.
The Education Services Contracting scheme of GASTPE provides a tuition subsidy by government to students who cannot be accommodated in public high schools.
Grantees in participating private schools in Metro Manila enjoy a subsidy of P10,000, while those in the rest of the country receive P6,500, Tinio said.
GASTPE funds were jointly managed by the DepEd and the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE).
With the inadequate budget it has allotted to public education, President Aquino will be “underserving” the Filipino youth, including the over 20 million trooping to public schools starting today, Tinio said.
`“The government continues to underfund education, with a mere 2.45 percent share to the gross domestic product, far from the 3.8 percent spent for education in 1997 and way below the UNESCO recommendation of 6 percent of GDP,” Tinio said.
“This era of neglect—including the ‘lost decade’ under Arroyo administration which saw a massive increase in the number of out-of-school children, and the imposition of additional years by
Aquino’s K to 12—caused shortages to accumulate, leaving us this year with [a shortage of] at least 46,567 teachers and 32,844 classrooms,” Tinio said.
Tinio said the country is also facing an unmet need for a high school in every barangay, with DepEd having just one for every five elementary schools.
“That ratio must be reduced significantly to deliver free high school education, particularly to the children of poor families in the countryside.”
“What is the DepEed doing to enable 4.6 million children to enter high school? Children of the rural poor are as much entitled to quality teachers, classrooms, and textbooks as other Filipinos.”
Tinio pointed out that failure to provide access to secondary education to the poor would worsen social inequality and hinder genuine national development.
He cited another anti-student and anti-poor Home Study Program (HSP) aimed at decongesting public high schools in urban areas.
“We question the DepEd’s use of the Home Study Program as a so-called Alternative Delivery Mode to decongest overcrowded public high schools,” said Tinio.
“To meet its 1:55 teacher-student ratio, DepEd ordered all principals to use alternative delivery modes to serve those declared as excess students. One such decongestion measure is HSP,” Tinio said.
Tinio said overaged children, low achievers or repeaters, those with disciplinary problems, along with working students, are the ones that are chosen for HSP.
“Regular and adequate investment in public school infrastructure remains to be the best and most decisive way of easing bloated class sizes,” Tinio said.
“If the Aquino administration could fund 61,510 teacher items to reduce the teacher shortage, it should also make a huge investment for classrooms and school buildings.”
Based on figures from Deped, there will be a shortage of at least 32,844 classrooms when schools open on Monday, Tinio said.
Despite DepEd’s “zero backlog” line, schools and divisions nationwide still report large gaps not just in classrooms and teachers, but also in non-teaching personnel, textbooks, instructional materials, and other basic inputs.
Most CALABARZON schools for instance have dismal ratios of three or five students per textbook and 80 and 95 pupils per classroom in the elementary and secondary levels, respectively, he said.
Instructional materials for Kindergarten and Grades 7 and 8 had been delivered, but still short for the expected enrollment.
One elementary school in Dasmariñas, Cavite will be using its covered court for 10 classes (in two shifts) a day, aside from using 27 classrooms long slated for demolition and other spaces such as the library and corridors, Tinio lamented.
“Investment for education, with the political will to do it sufficiently and consistently, is the only solution to the perennial crises in shortages,” Tinio said.
“The creation of 61,510 teaching items--a fruit of our long campaign for more teachers--somewhat alleviated the gap, though still insufficient for the ideal ratio of a teacher for 45 or fewer students,” Tinio said.
He said President Benigno Aquino III had to make similar or higher commitments regarding “non-teaching personnel, classrooms, and other basic inputs.”
Citing DepEd figures, the legislator noted that there were 7,268 public high schools throughout the country in 2011. in contrast, there were 38,351public elementary schools.
“In short, there’s only one public high school for every five elementary schools. Almost all barangays in the country have at least one elementary school. By contrast, high schools may be found mainly in urban areas and population centers only. As a result, 91 percent of school-age children are enrolled in elementary, while only 62 percent are enrolled in high school,” Tinio said.
“The shortage of public high schools, particularly in rural areas, explains the alarmingly high number of children who are not enrolled in high school,” said Tinio. “The existing high schools are simply too far away, making even free secondary education too costly for rural poor families.”