The Great GASTPE-A A +A
An Independent View
Monday, September 16, 2013
THE overall 2014 budget amounting to P2.268 trillion has been approved by Congress. Also receiving approval is the amounts allocated to each department. For example, the education budget is P336.8 billion.
Congress, however, will spend the remainder of the year debating the allocation of the funds within departments. In particular, the education budget needs very careful scrutiny.
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) associated with the 2013 Education Act [RA 10533] lack the clarity and precision that we hoped for. Specifically, we still have no idea how the additional two years of high school interfaces with the tertiary sector. Perhaps, the Department of Education (DepEd) does not know either. This vital issue should have been dealt with when a six year high school was being deliberated. It was not and is still has not been considered properly.
Last week, DepEd announced that it proposes to introduce a voucher system that would grant high school students who cannot be accommodated in the public schools a tuition subsidy in a private school where they can graduate from senior high school.
The reasons why there will be students who cannot be accommodated in the public schools are not clear. No doubt DepEd will trot out its chronic hardware problems (insufficient classrooms, books, CRs etc), but with the very substantial budget increases and with the implementation of fifth year high school not due until 2016, we surmise there are other reasons for DepEd’s proposal to transfer responsibilities to the private sector. Hopefully, the budget meetings will clarify what are the real reasons.
If DepEd is incapable of implementing, within public schools, a system that it is determined to foist onto an unwilling populace, then it should abandon the fifth and sixth year high school concept. This is because graduates of the existing four year high school course have a free choice as to what they should do next. DepEd by “compulsorily” insisting on a six year high school program is wasting two years of our students’ lives.
We believe that Congress should very closely scrutinize DepEd’s plans. Substantial revisions to RA10533 may be necessary.
The unkind ones, who include me, think of DepEd as a department which loves authority (‘K-12 is compulsory throughout’) but does not love the corresponding responsibility DepEd instead likes to offload responsibility onto others. This latest move, taking for granted that private sector’s willingness to co-operate is typical of DepEd’s unattractive culture. Parents of private school students make considerable financial sacrifices to provide their children with an education that they consider to be better than that which can be obtained from the public schools. DepEd is misguided if it thinks that its plan to transfer public school students to the private sector will be welcomed by the private sector community.
There is the question of attainment levels. My experience is that a good private school covers the existing four year high school curriculum more completely and with more detail than a public school. Hence teaching fifth and sixth year high school (and we have no idea yet what the curriculum will be since DepEd has not told us) will be a challenge if the class consists of a mixture of public and private school students.
GASTPE (Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education) was mentioned in the IRR but only in qualitative terms.
Approximately 800,000 students, mostly in the tertiary sector, are alleged to be part of the GASTPE scheme. The GASTPE budget for this year is around P7 billion and from next year, subject to Congressional approval, will be approximately P7.8 billion. [P10,000 for a student in Metro Manila and P6, 500 per student elsewhere]. The scheme is administered under an Education Services Contracting (ESC) arrangement.
DepEd proposes to provide vouchers for students that it sends to the private school system. Uh-oh. Those who administer viable private schools know the importance of cash flow. Voucher systems are notorious for engendering excessively late payments. These will be unacceptable to private schools.
The IRR states that the financial assistance to be given to students associated with the voucher system should not exceed what DepEd has determined to be the cost of education per students in the public school system. DepEd undersecretary for Finance and Administration Francis Varela has computed this cost to be approximately P14, 000 per year. This cost is low compared with the cost of running a viable private school. We doubt, therefore, whether DepEd’s plans to offload senior high school students onto the private sector will be accepted.
Sec 10 of RA 10533 speaks of the fees being given to private schools will be “based on the principles of public private partnership” (PPP). Unfortunately, the subsequent IRR, by stating that the financial assistance given to students via the voucher should not exceed the cost of education per student in the public school system, has closed the door on what could been a sensible negotiation between DepEd and the private schools.
I understand that DepEd and private schools have already discussed the fees payable to private schools. Figures reportedly much higher than Varela’s “around P14,000” were mentioned by DepEd. If a government department cannot deliver on its promises it is no wonder that the PPP scheme has largely been a failure.
Our education policy is becoming messy. This is due to DepEd riding roughshod over stakeholders and then not being able to deliver on its half-baked ideas.
We need better quality education.
We do not need a 13-year program which is long on quantity and weak on quality.
Stakeholders are hugely supportive of education programs. A recent Nielsen survey found that in the Philippines 15.4% of the household budget is allocated to education, compared to a global average of 8%.
But stakeholders want a return on their investment. Is K-12 going to deliver on the looked-for benefits? So far it does not appear so.
“Political power grows out of the barrel of pork” Adapted from Mao Zedong (1893-1976)
Speech, 6 November 1936.
Actually Mao said ‘gun’ not ‘pork’
But then he also said:
‘Politics is war without bloodshed
While war is politics with bloodshed.’
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 16, 2013.