By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Given the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their operations, private schools are seeking assistance from the government, particularly on behalf of their personnel and students.
The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), which serves as the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines, said that the private education sector “is one of the sectors seriously affected” by the prevailing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada, COCOPEA Managing Director, told the Manila Bulletin that its member schools “welcome any government support in any form” to students, parents, and schools across education programs.
COCOPEA is composed of more than 2,500 educational institutions in the country, represented by its five (5) member-associations: Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAPSCU), Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), Association of Christian Schools Colleges and Universities (ACSCU), and the Technical Vocational Schools Association of the Philippines (TVSA).
To ease the burden of the private schools while it transitions to the so-called new normal on education, COCOPEA also asked for the inclusion in the social amelioration packages the educational costs and needs of students and financial assistance to teachers and school personnel affected by the ECQ, particularly the minimum-wage earners.
COCOPEA is also seeking the provision of long-term loans packages for affected faculty at no interest, and loans and subsidies for students and faculty in the acquisition of computers, laptops, and other gadgets needed for online and blended education consistent with the provisions of RA 10650, the Open Distance Learning Act.
The group had earlier called for the “immediate and urgent release of funds” to the Department of Education (DepEd) for the disbursement of government subsidies for students in private basic education such as the Education Service Contracting (ESC) under RA 8545, and the Senior High Vouchers under RA 10533, as well as the “immediate processing and urgent release” of the Teacher Salary Subsidy under RA 8545, and its possible expansion to include teachers in private elementary and senior high schools.
COCOPEA is also requesting for policies that promote flexible learning and teaching modes of delivery in private schools and requiring “only the essential standards in each subject area of the K-to-12 curriculum.”
It called for consistent implementation by the local governments units (LGUs) of the Department of Health (DOH) guidelines on the regular disinfection programs for schools within their jurisdiction. Private schools, COCOPEA noted, should also be covered by concrete COVID-19 programs localized for schools in collaboration with the school’s health programs.
The group said education and the complementary role of the private sector on this state function cannot be overemphasized. Since education is vital, COCOPEA appealed to the government for economic intervention and policy initiatives that will allow innovative, creative, and flexible learning delivery modes in schools.