By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Due to potential economic impacts of COVID-19 on the income of Filipino families, the Department of Education (DepEd) is anticipating a possible migration of learners coming from private schools to public schools when classes open this upcoming school year.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that students migrating from one sector to another is observed every school opening. “That happens every year – there’s migration of students from public schools and there are also students from private schools who transfer to public schools,” she explained. “This and that depends I think, I believe on the preference of parents and the availability of space,” she added.
Briones noted that migration of students from one school to another is also influenced by convenience or the proximity of their residence to the schools. “Most children go to the schools nearest their homes because they don’t have to spend extra money on transportation expenses,” she added.
For this coming school year, however, Briones noted that the economic impact of COVID-19 on families may become another reason why students who used to enroll to private schools may transfer to public schools.
Citing one of the observations of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) under the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), Briones said that “there might be a migration of children from private schools to public schools because of the as an impact of the economic crisis.” She noted that DepEd also has to take into consideration the “capacity of public schools to absorb them.”
Briones explained that as early as January, DepEd has conducted its Early Registration to prepare for the school opening. “This is where the queuing comes in – as early as January we already started [the enrollment] and from June 1 to 30 is for those who want to transfer,” she added. “For those who still wish to transfer, we will have to see if we can still accommodate them because I’m sure its going to be quite tough if the projection of the NEDA-TWG group that there migration will come true so we have to consider all these factors,” she added.
For DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesperson Annalyn Sevilla, the result of the survey to be conducted by DepEd during the enrollment period next month “will be very crucial” to the policy-making of DepEd. “We will wait for the result of the survey because it’s important for us to know if there’s a possible migration of the private school students to the public – that is our expectation but, we still don’t know what will happen,” she added.
During the month-long enrollment in June, DepEd said that enrollees and/or their parents/guardians shall provide information through an enrollment and survey form intended to collect important information to consider for the adoption of the relevant learning delivery strategies and modalities and to further provide support to learners for the school year.
Declining enrollment in private schools
Earlier, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) – which serves as the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines – expressed concern that many private schools might be “in the verge of closing down operations” due to disruptions related to COVID-19.
During the May 14 virtual senate hearing, COCOPEA managing director Joseph Noel Estrada noted that the enrollment rate for private schools was set to drop by 50% amid the health crisis – wherein around two million learners are expected to leave private schools as Filipino families brace for the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Estrada noted that private institutions comprise 16% of the country’s total school enrollment rate. “There are 27 million learners and in the private sector, we account for 16 percent of the total enrollment – that accounts to four (4) million students,” he said.
Citing a recent survey conducted with COCOPEA members as respondents, Estrada also noted that there is already “steady decline” in enrollment of 25 % even before the health crisis started. “Even prior to the pandemic, the steady decline already reached 25 percent, year in year out, because of a lot of factors,” he said.
Given the current situation, Estrada said that private schools are anticipating higher decrease in enrollment this upcoming school year: nine (9) percent in elementary; 20% in junior high school (JHS) and 46 % in senior high school (SHS).
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 Technical Vocational Schools Association of the Philippines (TVSA).