Senator Win Gatchalian is eyeing the expansion of the Senior High School-Voucher Program (SHS-VP) to help struggling private schools recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can expand the voucher program. Sa voucher program kasi, dadalhin ng estudyante yung voucher sa school at pwedeng maging source ng revenue ng eskwelahan. Even though private schools are non-profit, we can treat them as corporations and they should have access to capital. Ang problema kasi naubos ang capital nila because of the pandemic,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
The SHS-VP is a program of financial assistance, where qualified SHS learners from participating private or non-DepEd schools receive subsidies in the form of vouchers. Under the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP), P39.3 billion is allocated for the implementation of the SHS-VP with an estimated voucher value of P17,793 per learner.
The Department of Education (DepEd) reported that 425 schools have closed since 2020, with around 800 suspending operations during the height of the pandemic.
According to the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Institutions (COCOPEA), around 900,000 private school students transferred to public schools since the pandemic struck in 2020. The group added that around 60% of private schools saw a decline in enrollment, which resulted in increased congestion in public schools.
To expand the coverage of financial assistance to students, including learners at the elementary level, the DepEd is seeking amendments to the Expanded Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (Republic Act No. 8545). The COCOPEA, on the other hand, has also been proposing a higher amount for vouchers given to students. The private schools’ group has also proposed extending vouchers to elementary students.
Considering the decline in private education participation because of the downturn of the economy, Gatchalian pointed to the need to develop a clearer vision, as well as a dynamic and responsive framework, where the government and private education institutions can further operationalize the principle of complementarity enshrined in the Constitution.
Gatchalian earlier filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 12 seeking a Senate inquiry on strengthening the complementary roles of public and private educational institutions in the Philippine educational system.