Private schools' group raises alarm as more students transfer to public schools

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2020 01:24 PM

MANILA — An organization of private schools on Monday asked government to come up with interventions to mitigate the rising number of their students transferring to public schools, where tuition is free.

A total of 365,867 students have transferred from private schools to public schools, data from the Department of Education showed early Monday.

This as families grappled with the effects of COVID-19, which has caused the economy to contract and raised the unemployment rate to record levels.

The figure was an increase from the 300,877 transferees reported by the department last July 15.

If the figure continues to go up, it may put a strain on government resources and the capacity of public schools to cater to the transferees, said Joseph Noel Estrada, managing director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea).

"Government intervention is urgently needed," Estrada said in an interview.

"The huge number of student transferees, if this trend continues, might put a strain on government resources and the absorptive capacity of the public schools," he said.

The continued transfer will also burden the students who stayed and affect the viability of these private schools, he added.

Some 1.3 million learners have enrolled in private schools so far this year, DepEd data showed Monday. The figure is about 30.3 percent of 4.3 million or the total number of students in private schools during the previous year.

Education officials earlier said the low enrollment rate in private schools may be due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the income of parents.

But Education Secretary Leonor Briones has said she expects the figures to rise since enrollment was still ongoing in private schools.

Estrada called on the DepEd to consistently implement a 2010 department order, which states that private schools shall have the authority to withhold transfer credentials of students with financial obligations.

Congress should also pass a bill creating a bond or fund to cover account balances of students who transfer to public schools, said Estrada, whose group has 2,500 member schools.

He added that there should be "emergency tuition subsidies" to mitigate the transfer of students to public schools.

An earlier survey by the Cocopea showed that 400 of its member-schools are at risk of closing down by August due to dwindling resources. A total of 500 schools participated in the survey.

Classes in public schools are scheduled to open on August 24 while private schools are allowed to start earlier upon securing the approval of DepEd regional directors.

Schools are set to implement distance learning after in-person classes have been prohibited to avoid exposing students and teachers to the risk of the new coronavirus.