Private schools bleed with transfer of students, teachers into public schools
Around 425 private schools that have permanently closed since 2020, according to Department of Education. About half of their 21,000 private school students have transferred to public schools where tuition is free.
A quarter-million students moved from private to public schools in 2020 and 2021, according to DepEd, as many parents lost their jobs.
The transfer of teachers from private to public schools, where the pay is said to be higher, had also spurred the closure of many independent schools, education specialist Elna Leah L. Fonacier said.
“A large number of private school teachers have transferred to public schools because of the attractive salary offer, which is triple the price offered by small private schools,” she said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
Ms. Fonacier said private schools have also found it hard to comply with the Department of Education’s (DepEd) pandemic school safety requirements for face-to-face classes.
The DepEd said it would allow private schools to continue offering online classes beyond Nov. 2, revising an order that would have forced them to enforce five days of face-to-face classes by next month.
“DepEd is cognizant of the current situation of the private sector due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — the amount of investment in online learning technologies, the development and institutionalization of best practices on blended learning, and the unfortunate closure of small private schools because of losses,” it said in a statement.
Private school closures have also limited the choices of parents and students to access the “distinct education services that they provide,” University of the Philippines Diliman College of Education Dean Jerome T. Buenviaje said.
“The closure of private schools means fewer graduates that could join the labor sector,” Mr. Buenviaje said. “If this trend goes on, the government would have to establish more schools or further strengthen their existing programs, which would mean additional funding.”
Mr. Buenviaje also said it would take time for such changes to take place “while the demand for quality graduates joining the labor force continues.”
“Tax relief for private schools will never be enough though it’s an initial reform to consider,” Mr. Buenviaje said.
Under the law, private schools are eligible for a temporary 1% tax from July 2020 to June 2023, after which the rate will go back to 10%.
“To save private schools from collapse, there are existing policies abroad that support the sustainability of the private education sector through government funding,” Mr. Buenviaje said. “These models can be reviewed and adopted if they are suitable in our context and existing laws.”
“Congress can also pass a bill expanding the coverage of voucher programs for primary education and increase the voucher allocations for the tertiary level under the tertiary education subsidy fund or through other programs,” Anthony Jose M. Tamayo, chairman of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines, said in an e-mail.
“Students will have the chance to go to their private schools of choice if the voucher system will be expanded to the tertiary level,” he said. It’s also better if the college voucher system has fewer restrictions so that more students can go to private schools.
More students going to private schools also means savings for the state, Mr. Tamayo said. “They don’t have to build additional classrooms and private schools can help in decongesting public schools.”
“Expanding productive engagement between the government and private education sector can help in getting the country out of the low learning proficiency trap.”