MANILA - Education officials on Tuesday said they are projecting a lower number of enrollees this year compared to last year, as families continue to bear the economic brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a press conference Wednesday, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the agency did not target to attain the 27 million enrollees registered last school year, as "negative growth" of the economy due to the health crisis affected incomes of families.
"Talagang natatamaan ang education. Sinabi na yan kagabi na magne-negative growth tayo. Malaking impact yan sa mga parents na nagpapa-aral sa private schools," Briones said.
(The education sector will really be affected. It was mentioned last night that we will have a negative growth. And that will have a big impact on parents who send their children to private schools.)
"Marami kasi ang nawalan ng trabaho kaya nagiging problema din 'yon. Expected namin na hindi makuha ang 27 million [enrollees]," she added.
(A lot of people lost jobs and that is a problem. We expect now that we could not reach the 27 million enrollees.)
Government data showed that there are around 16.6 million enrollees, as of 8 a.m. Wednesday, in both public and private schools in the country.
Of the total, 15,887,467 registered in public schools while 706,934 enrolled in private schools.
The enrollment, which will employ remote and dropbox methods to prevent virus spread, has been extended to July 15.
Last school year had some 27 million enrolled students, according to DepEd data, with 22 million in public schools.
Education Undersecretary Jess Mateo said that for this school year, the government is targeting to achieve 80 percent of last school year's enrolled students, citing the effects of the prevailing health crisis.
"Kailangan natin tingnan kasi yung nangyayari ngayon. Ang isang naapektuhan ay ang ekonomiya. Kapag naapektuhan yung income, mayroon tayong problema dyan tungkol sa pagpasok ng mga kabataan," Mateo said.
(We should look at what is happening now. One thing affected is the economy. When the income is also affected, we will also have problems on the enrollment of students.)
"Ang projection natin, 80 percent lang ang papasok," he said.
(Our projection is only 80 percent will enroll.)
"Pero kung titingnan natin ang ating numero sa public school, nasa 70 percent na tayo eh. Sana mas mahigit pa sa 80 percent na tina-target natin. Pero kailangan natin ipagpatuloy ang pag-convince… sa mga magulang na safe naman pumasok kasi wala namang face-to-face at may blended learning."
(But if we look at the number of enrollees in public schools, we are already at 70 percent. We hope that we exceed the 80 percent that we are targeting. But we need to continue convincing parents that it is safe to go to schools because there will be no face-to-face classes and there are blended learning methods.)
Briones said the smaller number of enrollees in private schools may be attributed to the "freedom" they have on when they will start the school year, along with the financial effects of the pandemic on families who normally enroll their children in such institutions.
Mateo said they have around 31,000 applicants for the Senior High School Voucher program for families intending to enroll in private schools, which may help augment finances of families during the pandemic.
Last March, most of the country has been on lockdown due to the coronavirus, with some "high risk" areas such as Metro Manila being placed under stringent measures to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.
The lockdown spawned a spike in unemployment figures, with government projecting more job losses by the end of the year, as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic lingers.
Looser lockdown protocols were implemented beginning June, with Metro Manila being placed in general community quarantine in a bid to open the economy and provide jobs to ailing families.
Classes will push through via blended learning methods on Aug. 24 for public schools.