The power to legislate laws is a responsibility entrusted by the country’s voting population to each member of both Houses of Congress.
In crafting legislation, the objective is, or should be, to address critical issues that have strategic impact to the nation’s socio-economic well-being, national security, and consistent with the Philippine Constitution.
The long and thorough legislative process that a bill must go through tests its responsiveness, viability, and most of all, ensure the positive impact to the sectors the proposed legislation seeks to benefit, while justly penalizing those who will violate its execution.
Vital to all legislative initiatives are intense consultations with all affected stakeholders so that legislators will be educated by experts on the real dynamics of an affected sector and be advised of the repercussions of proposed policies.
There is strong opposition from the country’s private educational institutions on the proposed Senate and House Bills that would allow students with unpaid tuition and other school fees to take assessments and examinations particularly Senate Bill 1359 and House Bill 7584 which will soon go on bicameral committee deliberations – the last stage before transmission to the Office of the President for signing into law.
This is yet another instance of oversight that has prompted the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ACSCU), the Unified Technical and Vocational Education and Training of the Philippines Inc. (UniTVET Inc.), and the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAPSCU) to issue a public statement last week calling on legislators “to defer the bicameral committee deliberations and hear the private educational sector’s voice.”
Department of Education’s October 2020 data showed the private education sector has been hit hard by the pandemic crisis counting 860 K-12 private schools that suspended operations affecting approximately 60,000 students and 4,500 teachers.
With mobility restrictions fully lifted and school operations normalized, many small private schools, especially those in the regions, are still struggling to survive amidst the economic difficulties of inflation and high operating costs.
Private schools have a critical role in training the skilled workforce that we need for economic growth.
The private educational institutions have been the major producer of the country’s professionals, managers, and technicians which according to 2019 PACU data is 74.9 percent compared to 25.1 percent from the State Universities and Colleges.
This translates to more than 3.5 million from the private higher education institutions and about 1.8 million from SUCs.
Based on data form the Commission on Higher Education, private colleges and universities produced 402,437 graduates in 2019-2020, higher than the 394,139 from SUCs.
From 2010-2020, approximately 3.7 million graduated from private schools accounting for about 50 percent of the Philippine education system’s output.
The prestige factor associated with private school institutions reflects the public’s positive perception of the quality and advantage of private school graduates for higher studies and employment.
For parents, investing in education is a lifetime legacy for the children’s future.
Contrasting to public schools that operate with government subsidy, private schools must be financially viable to sustain operations and to continuously invest in its facilities, teaching technologies, employees, and most important their faculty so that learners in each academic program will receive the best training.
The proposed bills if passed into law will threaten the already precarious situation of small private schools that can result in closure and the displacement of thousands of students, teachers and school personnel.
For each school that will close, an ecosystem of hundreds of linked small enterprises and livelihoods will lose business to the detriment of thousands of dependents.
Private schools survive on the timely payment of tuition and other fees. Prohibiting the No Permit, No Exam policy will unfairly encourage parents to deprioritize the prompt payment of this obligation leaving schools short in their cash flow to pay for utilities, salaries and benefits of teachers and employees and other obligations, which could not be deferred.
Furthermore, private schools are sensitive to the financial challenges of parents and have been offering deferred payment schemes. DepEd Order 15 s. 2010 already allows such arrangements. I know this as my parents availed of these installment plans back when I was student and now as a parent investing in my children’s education.
It is undeniable how private schools have been the dominant producer of skilled human resources and leaders in government and the private sector.
If the intent of Senate Bill 1359 and House Bill 7584 is to help ease the financial burden on students and their families, the proponents of these bills should heed the call of the private education sector to hold more consultations and together work on a balanced and more appropriate policy that would strengthen, not harm the private school system.