By the Teachers Dignity Coalition and the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan
We welcome the pronouncements made by various stakeholders on the issue of the cessation of the Senior High School (SHS) program at State and Local Universities and Colleges. It is our ardent wish that we all work together to avoid exacerbating the education crisis that has already beset us by mechanically shutting down the program without ample consideration of its impacts on teachers and learners alike.
We assert that with the Department of Education’s (DepEd) outstanding classroom backlog of about 165,000, accommodating displaced SHS students will be the main concern. It would mean classes in public schools would be congested, which will lead to overburdening our teachers. The DepEd should consider the geographic spread of the displaced students so as to prevent enrolling them in schools far away from their residence, which will bear additional costs to their families.
Yet, another default response of the DepEd to the perennial problem of congestion is to encourage the students to transfer to private schools where they can avail themselves of vouchers to subsidize their schooling under the Gastpe (Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education) program.
While this is true, given the ample increase in the budget of the Gastpe in the national budget of 2024, the DepEd must first rid itself of diploma mills and fly-by-night schools that have contributed to the declining quality of education in the country and have served as a milking cow for unscrupulous individuals.
Reports indicate that these diploma mills and fly-by-night schools charge exorbitant school fees, which include pricey field trips, uniforms, and superfluous expenses that fail to contribute to the holistic development of our learners.
The prevalence of these schools is a challenge not only endured by students and their parents but also by our teachers and the general taxpaying public as well. We call on the DepEd to release the audit of the schools that have accessed the Gastpe program and their evaluation of these questionable schools.
Our hardworking taxpayers deserve better if we truly aspire for a well informed and intelligent society.