Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the national government to give subsidies that would keep private schools afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic, warning that neglecting these institutions would lead to drastic effects such as overly-crowded public schools and unemployment among teachers and staff.
To help ease the burden on private schools that continue to pay their teachers and personnel, Gatchalian is proposing their inclusion in the Department of Finance’s (DOF) Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) measure, which grants P5,000 to P8,000 to qualified workers from small businesses affected by the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
According to a survey on micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by the DOF and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the education sector has the second highest number of job losses at 130,514 since the ECQ was implemented. The same survey revealed that the education sector is the fourth most battered in terms of revenue, with average losses of up to 76.8 percent.
Gatchalian said that if schools close because of revenue losses, teachers and personnel will lose their jobs and students could migrate to overstretched public schools. He added that when teachers lose jobs or shift careers, the shortage of teachers nationwide will impede learning continuity.
The senator is also mulling the expansion of the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) Program. This program, which was instituted through Republic Act 6728 or the GASTPE Act, provides financial assistance to learners and teachers to help decongest public schools.
“One of the action plans that we are employing is to lobby very hard to include private schools in the Small Business Wage Subsidy of government, and expanding other mechanisms, for example the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education, so that the teachers will directly get some grants and some aids in the time of COVID-19,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
“Malaki ang naging epekto ng COVID-19 sa mga pribadong paaralan, pati na sa mga guro at kawani nito pero hindi pa rin sila kwalipikado sa mga ayudang ipinapamahagi ng pamahalaan. Bilang mga katuwang natin sa pagbibigay ng dekalidad na edukasyon, kailangang tulungan natin ang mga pribadong paaralan na makatawid sa krisis na kinakaharap natin,” he added.
In a report called “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Shocks to Education and Policy Responses”, the World Bank warned that cutting back teachers’ salaries or dismissing teachers could have long-term costs. The World Bank cited the case of the United States during the 2008 financial crisis where nearly 300 thousand teachers and other school personnel lost their jobs and appeared to have had substantial impacts on the quality of education. The same report also said that even if public schools accept students from private institutions, their quality could further drop if they become overcrowded.
Records from the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) show that private schools cater to 16 percent or around 4 million of the country’s more than 27 million learners in basic education. COCOPEA Managing Director Joseph Noel Estrada projects that up to 50 percent or two million of these students might drop out or move to public schools.