MANILA, Philippines – As soon as she took over the education department, Secretary Leonor Briones made it clear: it’s not enough that education is getting the highest budgetary priority.
The international standard requires at least 6% of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to be allocated for education, she pointed out.
But for Briones, the Philippines at this time has to prove it deserves this 6%.
“We can only show that we deserve the 6% by catching up on commitments to deliver services…both for formal and informal [education],” she said during a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, July 27.
Right now, even with the education department getting the biggest cut of the budget pie, the country is only spending 3% of its GDP on education.
Before rejoining government, Briones has pushed for higher budgets for education as president of Freedom From Debt Coalition and as founder of Social Watch Philippines.
She revealed on Wednesday that the 2017 budget for Department of Education (DepEd) might hit the P500-billion ceiling, but the huge amount must be maximized so that education is delivered not only to students in schools, but even to out-of-school youth.
“So, equal effort has been made. And you need resources. As they say in public finance, finance is the lifeblood of any agency. We cannot move without financing,” she added.
With Briones at the helm of her department’s budget preparations, she emphasized the need to speed up and clean up the procurement process in basic education.
“The needs are so urgent…. You have to move the funds fast, you have to deliver fast, because population growth will catch up with us,” she told Rappler.
But how can the country’s education spending reach 6% of the GDP?
The former national treasurer said there is now an aggressive campaign to increase the generation of more revenue in the education sector.
“Many of our schools actually can be taught to be self-supporting because, in agricultural schools, they produce their own food and vegetables,” Briones explained.
“In the case of education, as I said, it will come largely from…different kinds of taxes, licenses, etc. And also income-generating activities of the department itself. Because it has so many facilities, so much property. DepEd has a lot of property which should be utilized,” she added. – Rappler.com