If the law is to be followed, everybody should have access to free K-12 education, but there are more senior high school students than the number of public schools the government has provided.
The imbalance has been showing.
Before the school opening, the Department of Education projected a total of 1,416,483 incoming senior high school students from both public and private schools, according to the Social Watch and Alternative Budget Initiative.
Of the 1.42 million students, the DepEd reported that 1,198,550 Grade 10 students had graduated from public junior high schools for school year 2015-2016, which means that only 220,000 grade 10 students were from private junior high schools.
About 636,650 students were expected to have enrolled in public schools while 352,360 were expected to enter private high schools.
Another 426,433 students were expected to enroll under the voucher program.
Meanwhile, only 5,990 (54.4 percent) or half of the 11,021 senior high schools in the country are public schools that are operated and funded by DepEd.
The remaining 5,031 or 45.6 percent are private schools and colleges (4,805), state universities and colleges (SUCs) (187), and local universities and colleges (LUCs) (39).
Under the voucher program, Grade 10 graduates from public schools will get subsidy if they would enroll in private senior high schools for Grade 11.
The large number of Grade 10 graduates from public junior high schools and the small number of expected enrollees in public senior high schools means that 561,900 or one in every two grade 10 graduates from public junior high schools need to enroll in private senior high schools.
This is where the DepEd’s voucher program comes in. Grade 10 graduates of public schools who will enroll in non-DepEd senior high schools for grade 11 will have their tuition and other fees subsidized by DepEd.
In a statement, the incoming Deped chief Leonor Magtolis-Briones said there was desperate need for more funding for senior high schooling.
To fund the voucher program of DepEd, the Asian Development Bank approved in December 2014 a $300-million loan to the Philippines.
According to Norman LaRocque, principal education specialist in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, the loan will fund an improvement in the curriculum, new school infrastructure, and to implement the voucher program at the senior high school level.
Based on the 2016 General Appropriations Act, DepEd allocated a total of P12.2 billion to the voucher program to subsidize the enrollment of Grade 10 graduates from public schools.
Of that amount, P11.2-billion was allocated to private senior high schools while P1-billion was allocated to non-DepEd public senior high schools.
However, with the voucher program partly funded by an ADB loan, the program’s continuity might be a problem, especially with the loan payment starting in 2020.
The amount of the voucher subsidy varies depending on the students and the schools they are planning to enroll. Recipient students may get between P8,750 and P22,500.
The subsidy is not given to students directly. Instead, it is remitted to the non-DepEd senior high schools where the students are enrolling.
However, even the voucher program of DepEd is not enough to cover all the Grade 10 graduates from public junior high schools who wish to pursue senior high school education.
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A close look at DepEd’s data showed that the National Capital Region has the lowest ratio of DepEd-operated senior high schools to Non-DepEd senior high schools.
NCR also has the highest ratio of DepEd-operated senior high schools to Grade 10 graduates from public high schools: Each of the 180 DepEd-operated schools need to take in an average of 425 students.
The 180 DepEd-operated senior high schools in NCR comprise only 17.86 percent of the total senior high schools in the region. The private senior high schools, numbering to 809, comprise 80.26 percent. This means that there is only one DepEd-operated senior high school for every five schools in the region.
With 76,550 grade 10 graduates from public junior high schools in the region, some of these students might have no choice but to enroll in private high schools.
Incidentally, Grade 10 graduates of public schools in NCR who are recipients of the voucher program are entitled to maximum subsidy amount of P22,500. This is P4,200 more than the average voucher subsidy of P18,300, which according to DepEd is aligned with the cost of public provision.
NCR also received the highest allocation of voucher program from DepEd.
A total of P2.4 billion or a fifth of the P12.2 billion total allocation to the voucher program was allocated to Private Senior High Schools (P1.9 billion) and Non-DepEd Public Senior High Schools (P465 million) in NCR. The amount will be use to subsidize the enrollment to these schools of grade 10 graduates of public junior high schools.
Next to NCR is Calabarzon, the region with the highest number of senior high schools and incoming grade 11 students in the country, comprising 12.5 and 12.7 of the total number of senior high schools and incoming grade 11 students, respectively.
However, only 450 schools or 32.7 percent of the total number senior high schools in region are operated and funded by DepEd, half the number of private schools and colleges that offer senior high school education, which numbers to 902.
A total of P1.4 billion from the voucher program was allocated to Private Senior High Schools (P1.4 billion) and Non-DepEd Public Senior High Schools (P8 million) in Calabarzon.
If all grade 10 graduates from public junior high schools in Calabarzon enroll in its 450 DepEd-operated schools, each of this school need to take in an average of 338 students.
When it comes to the lowest ratio of DepEd-operated senior high schools to grade 10 graduates from public junior high schools, the CARAGA region has the lowest. To accommodate the 40,770 grade 10 graduates from public junior high schools, each of CARAGA Region’s 367 DepEd-operated senior high schools will have to take in an average of 111 students.
If the same thing were to happen in the Cordillera Region, each of its 167 DepEd-operated school must take in an average of 115 students while in Region Region XII, its 339 DepEd-operated school must take in an average of145 students.
Incidentally, the CARAGA and Cordillera regions have the lowest allocation from the voucher program, receiving only P303 million and P223 million, respectively.
Started in 2012, the K-12 program is already on its fifth year of implementation, the last leg being the senior high school.
What used to be only 10 years of basic education program is now increased to 12 years, providing students with sufficient time for learning.
The Philippines is the last country in Asia and one of the only three countries in the world with a 10-year basic education program. That’s why, on June 13, the two-year special education curriculum known as senior high school was rolled out.