Large amount of the increased education budget was allocated – not to address backlogs and shortages – but to fund privatized education through the voucher system.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) picketed the Department of Education (DepEd) central office in Pasig City on the first day of school, June 5, Monday, to call for higher education budget and for salary increase for teachers and employees. It is a new school year, with the same old problems, ACT said.
“There are still no sufficient teachers, classrooms, facilities and equipment and other instructional and teaching materials. Several schools have double, even triple shifts!” Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general said.
Basilio stressed that the education budget for school year 2017-2018 may have increased by 17 percent, but this has not addressed the long time problem of shortages. He said the budget, which increased from last year’s P435 billion to P543 billion ($8.8 billion to $11 billion) this year, is still far from international standards, which sets the education budget to 20 percent of the national budget and six percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
ACT said data from DepEd itself shows huge gaps that need to be filled to give real quality education.
As of November 2016, DepEd data showed shortages that the agency is yet to meet; 13,995 classrooms, 88,267 teachers; 235 million instructional and other learning materials; 2.2 million school seats for 2016 and 66,492 sets – each seat with 45 seats and 1 teacher’s desk; and 44,538 computer packages.
The lack of learning materials has become a burden not only to students but teachers.
Joselyn Martinez of ACT National Capital Region (NCR) Union said, teachers have to make do with the insufficient learning materials provided to them. In NCR for instance, in a class with 50 students, only 35 learning materials are provided. It is worse for teachers in the regions where they were not provided with learning materials at all. “They have to look for their own learning materials,” said Martinez.
Large size classes still persist in public schools said Martinez. In Davao City, for one, 70 students are cramped into one class. At the Muntinlupa Elementary School, students Grades 5 and 6 will be temporarily holding classes in another school because the construction of additional classrooms are not yet finished.
Martinez said these backlogs have become a burden as teachers make do with what is available. Meanwhile, their salaries have not increased, and worse, the chalk allowance, which was already approved in the Senate, is in danger of being vetoed. Reports said Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno will recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto Teaching Supplies Allowance Act of 2017, which will increase by 100 percent the chalk allowance, from P2,500 to P5,000 ($50 to $101).
Huge allocation for privatization
Basilio said the increased education budget goes to the implementation of senior high school. He said, however, the huge amount was not allocated to address backlogs and shortages, but to fund privatization of education through the voucher system.
For this year, allocation for voucher system increased to P34 billion from P21 billion in 2016 ($688 million from $425 million). The voucher system intends to decongest public schools by sending high school students to private schools. However, the voucher system only provides P11,000 ($222) per student. An average cost of education in private schools at the minimum is pegged at P30,000 ($607).
Basilio said there are reports reaching the ACT office that there are students who were not able to finish their studies in private schools because they cannot keep up with the day-to-day expenses for transportation, food and other school related expenses.
In Manila City, enrollees in private schools decreased by 10.4 percent after the first semester of 2016, with dropouts citing financial circumstances as the reason, said Basilio.
Problems brought about by senior high school implementation
Vladimir Quetua, senior high school teacher at Araullo High School, said facilities for senior high school were often lacking. In Araullo High School for one, no facilities were provided for courses like automotive and baking. A colleague of his had to teach automotive theoretically, without hands-on exercises. “He was saddened that he was not able to teach the students the course in a practical way,” he told Bulatlat in an interview.
In baking, he said DepEd sent a machine for making dough but it was defective. There are also no laboratories for communication subjects. Modules are also lacking particularly in Philosophy and Sociology subjects and students have to pay for books to use. “Students have to shell out P400 ($8) per semester, a total of P800 ($16) for one year,” said Quetua.
The curriculum also became a problem as subjects meant for Grade 12 was already given to Grade 11. Quetua said as a result, students who wanted to return to Araullo High School as Grade 12 students cannot enroll because their subjects from their previous school are different. He said many of their Grade 10 students who enrolled in private schools for Grade 11 wanted to return to Araullo for Grade 12 because they cannot afford tuition in private schools.
The mixed-up in subjects is due to the lack of teachers for particular subjects. For one, Quetua who teaches Philosophy, a subject in Grade 12, already taught it for Grade 11 students.
These are among many issues afflicting the teachers and students of senior high school, on top of the framework of the K to 12 curriculum, which is to produce cheap labor, said Quetua.
Out-of-school youth increasing
Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio said the government still failed to address the increasing dropouts and out-school-youths in the country. This, despite the increase in budget and other schemes like voucher system and conditional cash transfer program, which requires beneficiaries to send their children to school.
Tinio said participation rates from DepEd’s data revealed that 4.8 million were out of school in 2015-2016, an 11 percent increase in five years.
The number of elementary school-age children who are out of school has more than tripled, from around 431,000 in 2011 to 1.4 million in 2015. The out-of-school who are of high school age decreased, but remain high in 2015 at 3.4 million, said Tinio.
Tinio also noted wide gaps between the enrolments in elementary and high school, 91 percent and 68 percent respectively. The gaps showed that fewer students were able to enroll in high school. “This means that while nine out of 10 elementary school-age children are enrolled in elementary, enrollment in high school dropped to only around 7 out of 10,” Tinio said.
He stressed the need to build more high schools as there are only 7,000 high schools that offer junior high school in the country. Most high schools are located in the urbanized areas, inaccessible to students from far-flung areas.
ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro also said there is only one high school for every four to five villages.
“We attribute low enrolment and high drop-out to the alarming shortage of public schools, especially high schools, and the insufficient budget for their maintenance and operations,” said Tinio adding there are 36,492 public elementary schools and only 7,677 high schools.
Both solons believe that more students will be able to continue their schooling if the government only reverses its habit of underfunding public education.
“These dismal enrolment and dropout statistics should be enough to push the Duterte administration to pour more direct investments into public schools,” said Tinio.