PH gov’t urged to give subsidies to private schools amid COVID-19 pandemic

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is calling on the national government to provide subsidies to help struggling private schools to keep afloat amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gatchalian warned that neglecting these institutions would possibly lead to “drastic effects” such as overly-crowded public schools and unemployment among teachers and staff.

To help ease the burden on private schools that continue to pay their teachers and personnel amid the quarantine, Gatchalian proposed the inclusion of these institutions in the government’s Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, which grants P5,000 to P8,000 to qualified workers from small firms affected by the enhanced community quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the action plans that we are employing is to lobby very hard to include private schools in the Small Business Wage Subsidy of government, and expanding other mechanisms, for example the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education, so that the teachers will directly get some grants and some aids in the time of COVID-19,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

The senator said that if schools close because of revenue losses, teachers and personnel will lose their jobs and students could migrate to overstretched public schools.

He added that when teachers lose jobs or shift careers, the shortage of teachers nationwide will impede learning continuity.

He also noted the survey on micro, small, and medium enterprises conducted by the Department of Finance and the National Economic Development Authority which stated that the education sector has the second highest number of job losses at 130,514 since the ECQ was implemented.

The same survey also revealed that the education sector is the fourth most battered in terms of revenue, with average losses of up to 76.8 percent.

Aside from including private schools in the SBWS program, Gatchalian said he is also mulling the expansion of the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) Program.

This program, instituted through Republic Act 6728 or the GASTPE Act, provides financial assistance to learners and teachers to help decongest public schools.

“Malaki ang naging epekto ng COVID-19 sa mga pribadong paaralan, pati na sa mga guro at kawani nito pero hindi pa rin sila kwalipikado sa mga ayudang ipinapamahagi ng pamahalaan,” he said.

“Bilang mga katuwang natin sa pagbibigay ng dekalidad na edukasyon, kailangang tulungan natin ang mga pribadong paaralan na makatawid sa krisis na kinakaharap natin,” he added.

Records from the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) show that private schools cater to 16 percent or around 4 million of the country’s more than 27 million learners in basic education. It has projected that up to 50 percent or two million of these students might drop out or move to public schools.

Gatchalian also said that even the World Bank, in its report, “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Shocks to Education and Policy Responses, said that cutting back teachers’ salaries or dismissing teachers could have long-term costs.

The World Bank cited the case of the United States during the 2008 financial crisis where nearly 300,000 teachers and other school personnel lost their jobs and appeared to have had substantial impacts on the quality of education.

The same report also said that even if public schools accept students from private institutions, their quality could further drop if they become overcrowded.

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