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Higher education budget for 2022 needed to recover from impact of COVID-19

Senator Win Gatchalian bats for the allocation of up to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the overall budget of the education sector next year, the recommendation by the United Nations (UN) under the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), to help spur the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.


CARCAR CITY, CEBU, Philippines – Before the pandemic, young learners can safely spend time with classmates and friends after school, as seen in this Nov. 2015 file image. To recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking to scale up government spending on the education sector to as much as 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The education sector has been allotted a budget of P759 billion for this year or 4% of GDP to help address the challenges of the pandemic. A big chunk of the budget goes to basic education which is 3.2% of GDP.

Aside from meeting the UN spending targets, Gatchalian also proposed the following steps in financing education: ensuring efficient funding at the local level to improve learner outcomes, ensuring coverage for vulnerable groups, and adjusting the national budget to adapt to the ‘New Normal.’

“We want to make sure that the budget for the education sector is responsive to the new normal by re-channeling some of the programs to distance learning — increase the use of the internet and protect the health of our teachers and our school officials,” he emphasized.

The senator said that channeling resources to education is such an important ingredient to the success of our learners. He cited an analysis of the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which showed that the Philippines spends a cumulative expenditure of an estimated P8,474 per student aged 6-15 over the theoretical duration of their studies, way lower than the expenses of other Southeast Asian countries per student. Singapore, for instance, spends an estimated P109,060 per student. Their learners scored 549 in Reading ending second from among 79 countries that participated in the said global assessment in 2018 while Filipino learners scored the lowest or 340 in Reading.

To help allocate more resources at the local level, Gatchalian proposed the expanded use of the Special Education Fund (SEF) in Senate Bill No. 1579 or the 21st Century School Boards Act.

Under the proposed measure, the expanded use of the SEF will cover salaries of public elementary and high school teachers, non-teaching, utility, and security personnel. Salaries of preschool teachers, capital outlay for pre-schools, operation and maintenance of Alternative Learning System (ALS) programs, distance education classes and training programs are also included in the proposed expansion of the SEF coverage. These are all contributory to the improvement of the quality of education in the country, according to Gatchalian.