With the Philippines officially in recession and growth in the education sector down 12.2 percent according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Senator Win Gatchalian is pushing for adequate education funding in the country’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.
The pandemic’s impact on the education sector is manifested in private school enrollment, said Gatchalian. Based on the Department of Education (DepED) data as of August 11, 1,554,482 learners are enrolled in private schools, only 36.1 percent of 4,304,676 private school learners enrolled for SY 2019-2020. Parental job loss and the concern on the health and safety of the children contribute to the dip in private school enrollment, which also saw 323,524 learners moving to public schools from private institutions, and non-DepEd schools such as local and state universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs).
The lawmaker also recalled a survey on micro, small, and medium enterprises by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Finance (DOF), which revealed that during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the education sector is the fourth most battered in terms of revenue with average losses of up to 76.8 percent.
While the education sector’s P692 billion allocation is the highest in the 2020 budget, education spending in the Philippines still falls below the United Nations standard, which is six percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Last year’s Senate budget hearings pointed out that education spending in the country is only 3.4 percent of GDP.
According to Gatchalian, the expected enactment of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Senate Bill No. 1564) or Bayanihan 2.0 will bring immediate relief to learners, teachers, and personnel in affected private schools. Under Bayanihan 2.0, affected teachers and non-teaching personnel will receive a one-time cash assistance. Learners who are not covered by government educational subsidies and voucher programs will also receive tuition subsidies.
To sustain the education sector’s recovery, Gatchalian reiterated the need to ensure that the 2021 national budget should have adequate allocation for education, including government subsidy programs such as the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS VP) and the Education Service Contracting (ESC) so that these programs don’t reduce the number of beneficiaries.
“There’s always an economic growth that follows whenever we invest heavily in education. Pouring more money into education means a more educated future. Milyung-milyong mag-aaral ang mabibigyan ng pagkakataon para sa isang dekalidad na edukasyon,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
Gatchalian reiterated the need to invest in the DepEd’s digital transformation to develop its capability and enhance its capacity to roll out distance learning and continuously deliver quality education when emergencies prevent face-to-face instruction.
Gatchalian also said DepEd urgently needs to streamline its procedures, workflows, and processes by adopting automation and digitization of its services to make the exchange of data and information between and among its offices, learners and parents secure, efficient and seamless, including but not limited to matters pertaining to enrollment, payments, grades submission or parent-teacher meetings.