MANILA, Philippines - Senators want to see if the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, the Aquino administration's centerpiece anti-poverty measure, can reduce the country's school dropout rate.
During Monday's hearing on the Department of Education's (DepEd) proposed budget for 2012, senators asked the agency's officials if the CCT would have any significant effect on the 24-percent dropout rate among students from Grade 1 to 4, noting that it is one of the program's goals.
"Five years hence or in 2016, can we see that the dropout rates can be reduced … as a direct consequence of the CCT," Senate finance committee Franklin Drilon asked during the hearing.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro explained that other factors cause students to drop out of school like lack of transportation and poor nutrition.
He said the agency will begin studying next year the effects of CCT on students experiencing those difficulties, and how the program can help.
The program, which is handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, gives P300 for education to children of poor families up to 14 years old on the condition that they attend 85 percent of school days.
"The hope is that the P300 per month for every child in school should be able to help in the regular allowance or payment for transportation," Luistro said.
"Children have no control over how the P300 per month will be disbursed," Drilon pointed out. "You cannot blame the parents if they buy food for the family rather than provide this as additional allowance for the children."
Senate education committee chairman Edgardo Angara said the dropout rate should be a factor in measuring the CCT's success.
Drilon said it would be determined in future budget deliberations.
"Maybe in future budget deliberations, that will now be a factor that will influence the committee to determine if the program will expand or has to be carefully reexamined," he told reporters after the hearing.
From P21 billion this year, the CCT program's allocation for next year is proposed to increase to P39 billion.