Senator Win Gatchalian once again pushed his proposal to expand the voucher system to address the congestion of classrooms in public schools, especially in urban areas.
According to the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, the expanded voucher system will address the problem of public school congestion while sparing the government from allocating more resources for the construction of classrooms, which will also take more time.
The voucher system currently covers senior high school learners through the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS-VP), a program of financial assistance where qualified SHS learners from participating private or non-Department of Education (DepEd) schools receive subsidies in the form of vouchers. Gatchalian previously said that he wants the expanded voucher system to cover learners from Kindergarten to Grade 6.
“If you have a well-designed voucher system that is properly implemented, you won’t need to build more classrooms. You give the voucher to the student, and the student goes to the nearest, least congested school. We can divert some resources to expand our voucher system, especially in the urban areas, and help alleviate the congestion of classrooms,” said Gatchalian.
Aside from tapping private schools’ excess capacities, Gatchalian pointed out that expanding the voucher system could also help in the recovery of private school enrollment, which suffered during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the DepEd and the Learner Information System revealed that from the pre-pandemic level of 4.3 million in School Year (SY) 2019-2020, enrollment in private schools is down to 3.62 million for SY 2022-2023, a dip of 16%.
Based on data from the Department of Education (DepEd) and the 2023-2028 Philippine Development Plan (PDP), 32% (12,524) of 39,186 schools for Kindergarten to Grade 6 have congested classrooms. Forty-one percent (4,208) of 10,188 junior high schools have congested classrooms, while 50% (3,737) of 7,520 senior high schools have congested classrooms.
According to DepEd Assistant Secretary for Operations Francis Cesar Bringas, the agency faces a backlog of around 159,000 classrooms nationwide, which would require a budget of P397 billion. Under the 2024 proposed national budget, however, only P10 billion was allocated to the DepEd for the construction of 7,100 classrooms.