Underspending, congestion still a problem in schools

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2015 04:02 PM | Updated as of Jun 03 2015 12:02 AM

MANILA - Despite government's best efforts to address the perennial problems of education, a lawmaker said the Department of Education (DepEd) actually underspent in its preparation for the implementation of the K-12 curriculum.

Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, said DepEd officials confirmed there was underspending in the government's preparations for the new curriculum.

"Inamin ng DepEd sa committee, especially for preparation for K-12, nagkaroon talaga ng underspending... Kung kaya pa nila ma-address, yun ang inaabangan natin," he said.

Romulo said he agrees with officials that the opening of classes on Monday was uneventful.

A Teacher Party-list Rep. Mariano Piamonte said that in the past few years, there have been fewer problems during the opening of classes after students were allowed to enroll as early as January.

"Dati opening, siya rin enrolment... Medyo gumaganda year to year period of admission and start of opening classes," he said.

Piamonte noted government continues to divert most of its resources to address the problems of education, like the shortage of classrooms.

Romulo said the government is now recalibrating the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) so that those who cannot be accommodated in public schools can be accommodated in private schools.

The program allows government to shoulder the expenses of students from public schools transferring to private schools.

"GASTPE, effective naman siya, pero amounts involved di sapat para maka-enroll sa private school. Ina-adjust naman ng DepEd, expanded GASTPE program nila in event magkaroon ng shortage," he said.

This would probably mean an increase of subsidies to 22,500 for students in Metro Manila and 18,500 for students outside Metro Manila.

"Question naman sa GASTPE, kailangan magamit slots dun... In previous years di nagamit. Kaya di nagamit kasi kulang amounts. That's why nag-reconsider maglalabas ng amounts para lahat ng slots expanded makukuha."

Piamonte admitted even that is now not maximized. "May problema sa absorptive capacity or pag-utilize ng slots estudyante. DepEd encouraging to transfer, provided they comply. Unless private school condones difference between what GASTPE gives and school fees, magkakaproblema estudyante."

Another problem, according to Romulo, is the lack of buildable space in campuses.

The DepEd has been asked to submit a school mapping project so Congress can see which school campuses can still accommodate the construction of new buildings.

"Dito sa Metro Manila isang problema buildable space. May campuses na puno na di kaya mag-construct. Dito pumapasok GASTPE, isang alternative na inisip ng DepEd humingi ng tulong sa private high school," Romulo said.

Government needs additional 29,000 classrooms for senior high school alone under the K-12 program.