MANILA (UPDATE) – Around 900,000 private school students have transferred to public schools since the start of the pandemic in 2020, a group of private schools said Tuesday.
“Based on what we’ve gathered, around 900,000 students have transferred. Unfortunately, they’re congesting further our public school system, which is another bad consequence of this closure of schools,” Dr. Anthony Tamayo, chairman of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations, said in an interview on ANC's "Headstart".
Lawyer Joseph Noel Estrada, the group’s managing director, said 60 percent of private schools saw a decline in enrollment.
“Magkakaiba 'yung decline ng enrollment. Pero base doon sa aming survey, 60 percent ang nakaranas ng pagbagsak ng kanilang enrollment in varying degrees. Meron talagang halos magsara na, at 'yung iba naman ay kaya pa,” he said in a separate interview.
(The decline in enrollment levels differs from school to school. But based on our survey, 60 percent of private schools saw a decline in enrollment in varying degrees. There are those that almost closed down, and those that can still carry on.)
Amid reports of permanent closures of many private schools nationwide, Tamayo appealed to government to consider private schools as complementary to the public school system.
“I think the private sector should be seen as a, not as a competition but complements to each other. And should there be vacant spaces, instead also of constructing buildings, maybe the students should be given vouchers so the empty classrooms in the private sector be filled up. That would also help in preventing closure,” he said.
Estrada added, “Like, now, there’s a shortage of classrooms in public schools, 91,000 daw. So if you look at it, then why do we have many private schools closing down also? And unused spaces. So, I think, we really have to look at the resources available to us, to be able to help each other and improve our Philippine education system.”
Tamayo said government could help students by increasing the amount given to senior high school students who hold vouchers for enrollment in private schools.
“An increase in that amount would be highly appreciated by the public sector. And you can also include an increase in the junior high school sector for the education service contracting,” he said.
He called on the government to expand the voucher program to include elementary school students.
“In the grade school, there is no voucher program at all. And that would be a big help. Aside from giving choice to the students, it would also now provide access to quality education.”
In Western Visayas, 76 private schools have ceased operations for this school year, according to the Department of Education.
Of the figure, 17 have announced permanent closure, DepEd Western Visayas spokesperson Hernani Escullar said.
"The most common reason that was stated on the intention of these private schools especially those that are requesting to have a temporary closure for this school year is the low enrollment," he told ANC's "Headstart".
Financial instability due to the pandemic was the other reason, he added.
The DepEd Western Visayas is currently assisting students affected by the school closures.
Esculler assured that the public school system is ready to accept students from private institutions.
The number of enrolled students in the region this year has reached 2.2 million, he said.