MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday called for an expanded voucher system to address congestion in public schools, especially in urban areas, as well as lessen the need to fund the construction of more classrooms.
“If you have a well-designed voucher system that is properly implemented you won’t need to build more classrooms. You give the voucher to the student, and the student goes to the nearest, least congested school. We can divert some resources to expand our voucher system, especially in the urban areas, and help alleviate the congestion of classrooms,” he said.
Currently, the voucher system covers senior high school learners through the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS-VP), a financial assistance program wherein qualified SHS learners can enroll in participating private or non-Department of Education (DepEd) schools through subsidies in the form of vouchers.
Gatchalian previously said he wants the expanded voucher system to cover learners from Kindergarten to Grade 6.
He pointed out that expanding the voucher system could also help in the recovery of private school enrollment, which suffered during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
DepEd’s Learner Information System data showed that from the pre-pandemic level of 4.3 million in school year (SY) 2019-2020, enrollment in private schools is down by 16 percent to 3.62 million for SY 2022-2023.
Under the 2023-2028 Philippine Development Plan, 32 percent or about 12,524 of the 39,186 schools for Kindergarten to Grade 6 are projected to have congested classrooms.
Forty-one percent or 4,208 of 10,188 junior high schools have congested classrooms, while 50 percent or 3,737 of 7,520 senior high schools have congested classrooms.
DepEd faces a backlog of around 159,000 classrooms nationwide, which would require a budget of PHP 397 billion.
Under the 2024 proposed national budget, only PHP10 billion is allocated to DepEd for the construction of 7,100 classrooms. (PNA)