Teachers fear closure of small private schools, layoffs

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2020 12:24 PM | Updated as of Jun 14 2020 08:02 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) – A teachers’ group on Saturday raised concerns over the low enrollment figure in private schools, saying it may lead to the closure of small educational institutions and layoff of workers. 

As of Friday morning, 318,930 learners have enrolled in private schools nationwide, according to data from the Department of Education (DepEd).

Around 4.3 million students were registered in private schools during the previous school year.

“If enrollment will continue at this rate, we may have less than a million learners in private schools for this school year,” said Raymond Basilio, secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).

“[This] may mean thousands of school closures, especially small ones that are unable to continue operation due to the lack of sufficient funds from tuition and other miscellaneous fees. This in turn will lead to massive lay-offs of education workers,” he said.

Even before the government began relaxing lockdowns across the country, many private schools had already retrenched employees, mostly contractual workers, said ACT, the country’s largest union of education workers.

The group urged government to subsidize private schools so they could keep their employees.

“Private school teachers must also receive the financial aid the government owes them since the lockdown started in March,” said Basilio.

Both the Federation of Associations of Private Schools and Administrators (FAPSA) and Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea), groups of private school administrators, meanwhile said they still hope that the enrollment numbers will go up.

FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag said students may opt to enroll in private schools since public schools are hesitant to implement online learning.

In-person classes have been prohibited to avoid exposing students and teachers to the coronavirus. Schools are set to implement various alternatives, including the use of online platforms, printed and digital modules, television, and radio.

“With some hesitation from the public [schools] to go online, this shall be our time, the private schools, to assert our readiness,” he said in an interview on Sunday.

Some private schools are open to accepting students until September, even after their classes have begun, Kasilag said.

“We remain optimistic especially [since] a lot of students have [manifested] their intention to enroll. Usually, when it’s closer to school opening, that’s the time enrolment numbers rise,” said Cocopea Managing Director Joseph Noel Estrada.

Over 10.4 million learners have enrolled in both public and private schools nationwide as of Friday, according to DepEd data.

Cocopea earlier said about 2 million private school students were expected to either transfer to public schools or drop out from studying this school year after their parents' incomes were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has said she was in talks with other government officials to provide financial assistance to teachers in small private schools.

The DepEd has scheduled classes to formally start on August 24 but private schools are allowed to start earlier as long as no face-to-face classes would be conducted.