Educ. chief says voucher program gives students better access to senior high school

MANILA — Education Secretary Leonor Briones said it is unfair to tag her department’s budget as “private school-friendly” when PHP400 billion of its PHP546 billion proposed budget for 2017 is for the delivery of basic education through public schools.

Amid recent criticisms that the higher budget for the Senior High School (SHS) Voucher Program for private schools –- compared to the voucher allotment for non-Department of Education (DepEd) public schools -– favors school owners, Briones said the program was designed to give students and their families options in deciding the SHS that is most relevant to their needs and career goals.

“With 4,486 private schools offering SHS, compared to 220 non-DepEd public schools, it is not surprising that there are more enrollees in private schools, thus needing higher budget for the voucher program,” she said.

The education department has proposed to earmark PHP24 billion for next year’s SHS Voucher Program in private schools. The amount is twice the current budget and will cover an estimated 1.4 million student grantees who will enroll in Grades 11 and 12 in private schools next year.

On the other hand, non-DepEd public schools offering SHS will receive PHP1.3 billion to cover 138,462 grantees who will enroll in state and local universities and colleges.

The SHS Voucher Program is a financial aid for Grade 10 completers who wish to pursue Grades 11 and 12 in private schools, public universities, colleges and technical vocational institutions offering SHS. Under the program, enrollment in a private school becomes a viable option as students receive a subsidy to offset school fees charged by these schools.

According to Briones, the 31-percent increase in the department’s proposed budget for 2017 is in recognition of the needs and expectations that DepEd has to meet and deliver.

The SHS voucher program, she said, is one of the venues by which the DepEd collaborates with the private sector in the effective and inclusive delivery of education.

“In the next six years, I intend to enhance the complementarity of public and private institutions. This is in recognition of the private sector’s vital contribution in achieving education for all in the country,” Briones said.