Press Release

Position Paper on the EGASTPE Guidelines for 2011

        The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the largest private educational association in the country with a membership base of more than 1,300 Catholic Schools, Colleges and Universities, expresses its serious and urgent concerns about the Proposed Policies and Guidelines on the Implementation of the Education Service Contracting (ESC), Education Voucher System (EVS) and Grant of Salary Subsidy to ESC Teachers in Private Secondary Education Effective 2011-2012 jointly presented by the Department of Education and the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE) last 12 January 2011. 

On the Selection of ESC Grantees

        One new provision is the registration of incoming first year students in public and private high schools in the school of their choice on or before 29 January 2011. While we understand that the objective of early registration is to prepare DepEd in mobilizing internal and external resources for the new school year, we are concerned about how well this instruction will be disseminated to the Regional Offices, Division Offices, secondary schools (both public and private), and to those who are graduating from the elementary schools given the proximity of the deadline to the release of the Department Order. 

        Also, under the proposed guidelines, only graduates from public elementary schools are automatically eligible for the ESC grant. If you are a private elementary graduate, the only chance for you to become an ESC grantee is if you registered in a public school and at the same time declared as an eligible grantee of the program by the public high school principal. This makes it more circuitous and uncertain for deserving private elementary graduates to participate in the program. Further, in the situation of many schools in rural setting, these public high schools are located far from each other. To register in a far-flung public high school, even though there is a nearby private high school, can be prohibitive to students if they do not qualify as aisle students because that means they will have to study in that distant school.  This will mean additional expenses and inconveniences for students who have to go to distant schools. 

        Current data shows that 79% of first year ESC grantees come from public elementary and 21% come from private elementary. Based on this, we are meeting the requirements of the current guidelines which is at least 60% should come from public and not more than 40% from private. Why do we have to change the guidelines if we are meeting the required targets? Admittedly, we are not sure that the 21% from private elementary are those that are really deserving of the grant. But are we sure that the 79% from public elementary deserve the grant?

        It would be better if the guidelines provide participating schools suitable criteria in the selection of grantees. It should not look at where the student graduated from and instead look at the merits that qualify the student as deserving of the grant.

Subsidy vs. Tuition and Other Fees

        There are a lot of factors affecting the selection of grantees. The amount of subsidy for non-NCR schools is Php 5,500, and for NCR schools Php 10,000. The average tuition and other school fees in non-NCR schools is approximately Php13,000, and NCR schools Php25,000. The average grant differential is at Php 7,500 and Php 15,000 respectively. Will there be enough takers from public elementary graduates knowing that they still need to pay a big difference? And if there are takers from the public elementary, does it mean that they are poor and deserving knowing that they are still required to pay a substantial amount?

        The amount of subsidy is merely a small fraction of what the grantees are paying. In order to target the “poor and deserving” it has to be increased further to match the tuition and other fees in private high school. However, there is a restriction that the subsidy shall not be more than the per capita cost in a public high school. According to DepEd, current per capita cost in the public schools is approximately Php 8,000.

        What is also seriously dismaying here is that we, partners of the State in providing basic education to the people, were not consulted.  All of a sudden, the news was there of our Education President vetoing the time-tested policy of private schools determining who would fill their EGASTPE slots, and now declaring:

        “Consistent with the core mandate of the ESC System to decongest public secondary schools through scholarship grants in private institutions, I hereby direct the implementation of the ESC System under Deped-OSEC, Special Provision No. 16, ‘Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education’:, page 65 to be made exclusively to graduates of public elementary schools and those coming from congested public secondary schools.  Otherwise the intended purpose of the ESC will not be achieved and our public secondary schools will remain congested….” (Veto Message of Pres. Aquino.) 

        In our considered view, the GASTPE and the EGASTPE laws were not enacted primarily for the benefit of decongesting secondary public schools.  These were not enacted for public schools.  The public schools have their budgetary allocations in public money.  The laws were enacted for private students and teachers.  After all, that is the meaning of GASTPE ? the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education.  There is no statement prescribing that the beneficiaries of the GASTPE provisions be graduates of public elementary schools nor be first enrolled in congested public secondary schools.

        RA 8545 or the EGASTPE Act of 1998 acknowledges “the complimentary roles of public and private educational institutions.”  The efforts of many of our private schools to bring basic education to the most remote of areas were recognized and supported by the monies of the Filipino people.   We were happy that while Government spent taxpayers’ money to support public schools, it also spent taxpayers’ money to support private schools.  It was neither the public nor the private character of the school that was foremost; paramount was the fact that basic education was delivered - often under the most difficult of situations.  And that basic education could continue to be delivered in remote areas because of EGASTPE

        In view of the above: 

        We ask President Aquino to suspend his veto.  Allow us, together as partners, to work out a policy consensus for the implementation of EGASTPE. 

        We propose to DepEd that the same set of guidelines as used in the past in selecting ESC grantees be maintained for this year while additional study be done for next school year. The study should focus on among others, the criteria for the selection of grantees, raising the subsidy to match the current per capita cost in public schools, implementing the Textbook Subsidy as provided by EGASTPE and raising the Teacher Salary Subsidy. 

        It is our prayer that these urgent calls will resonate in the hearts of our nation’s leaders. 

CATHOLIC EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES
27 January 2011