DAVAO CITY – The Department of Education plans to provide a subsidy called the expanded voucher program to finance students enrolling at senior high school (Grades 11 and 12).
It has also sought cooperation with private schools to absorb students from crowded public schools.
The voucher consists of a four-tiered system, where public school students would receive full voucher value amounting to P15,000 to 16,000 every school year, while students in private schools, especially students under the Education Service Contracting (ESC) subsidy of the Government Assistance to Teachers and Students in Private (GATSPE) form the second tier of grantees, would receive 80% of the voucher value.
The amount excludes the rider amount, which subsidizes ESC students for Junior High School only (Grades 7-10), estimated at about P5,000.
Education Undersecretary for Finance and Administration Francisco Varela told Davao Today that this is a way to address problems in the public education system.
“This strategy enables government to maximize the available capacities in non-DepEd schools and reduce institutional pressures on the public school system, as there would be a need to expand very rapidly if SHS was provided solely through public schools,” Varela said.
Dep Ed Region 11 spokesperson Dodong Atillo also said they will be tapping teachers from colleges and universities to teach general subjects.
Varela added that the scheme would minimize costs for DepEd and create partnerships with private schools.
“It also enables us to minimize upfront capital costs in the initial years as public provision would be adjusting to take up in non-DepEd schools. While it also addresses concerns on reduced enrollments in non-DepEd schools during the transition years, we look at this partnership as a long term program that creates an enabling environment for non-DepEd schools to expand and tap new markets,” he added.
Varela said the department would be distributing 1.3 million vouchers in 2016, as they estimated around 1.1 million grade 10 graduates and the FAPE’s ESC system numbering around 200,000 students.
The undersecretary said the voucher is equitable and would not be at a flat rate.
But the Davao Association of Colleges and Schools (DACS) is concerned with the capacity of private schools in Davao Region to offer Senior High School.
DACS Executive Director Jimmy Loe Dela Vega said only few public schools in the region will have the capability of offering Grade 11 and 12 courses and so the private schools are expected to absorb the more than 100,000 graduates of Junior High School by 2016.
He also said there are about 34,000 ESC grantees in Region XI distributed to 151 private schools.
“Regional allocation will be determined according to absorptive capacity of private schools and the excess students in public schools. The proposed SHS voucher is still subject to discussion and eventually legislation,” deLa Vega said.
Unequal rates, high costs
But for Elsa De Guzman, a mother of three children studying in a private school, she thinks the system should be uniformed.
“Why does the (National Capital Region) NCR receive a higher value than other regions? Why do schools in Mindanao have lesser subsidized amount? DepEd should factor in that prices of commodities are not only confined to NCR or other regions. The amount should be equal to all because cost of living is almost the same from one place to another,” she said.
A grade 8 student in a private school told Davao Today that the DepEd’s subsidy might not address higher tuition fees charged in private schools.
“Although it would appear as a welcome development because DepEd has increased the amount, but the subsidy is too small and could not even cope up the rising costs of tuition fees in private schools,” he said.
“My parents pay more than what the government is giving me for my education because tuition and other fees in private schools are not regulated by the government. The lack of political will to do so put us poor students to a very vulnerable situation to stop schooling,” he added.
Sr. Ma. Antonina C. Paguntalan, OP, Principal of Saint Martin Academy Iloilo recalled a previous voucher system that failed to help students because of politicking.
“When DepEd implemented the Education Voucher System (EVS) on 2006, where a voucher is issued in the name of the student-beneficiary, it was used by politicians to establish patronage politics by leveraging the voucher to buy votes. The system was corrupted and it collapsed eventually,” Paguntalan said. (Mart Sambalud/davaotoday.com)