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Private schools to DepEd: Ease policies to keep us afloat during pandemic

An organization of private schools has appealed to the Department of Education (DepEd) to ease some of its policies to help keep them afloat during the pandemic and the anticipated economic recession in the country.

Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) managing director Joseph Noel Estrada, made the appeal on behalf of private schools said in a Rappler Talk interview on Friday, July 24.

He cited the 1987 Constitution, particularly the provision on the government's "reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions."

"It is in the nature of support. It would be of big help at this time since private schools are also affected," Estrada said.

The DepEd notified private schools (through Department Order 13) of "non-negotiable" requirements in the conduct of distance learning for school year 2020-2021.

"It's already over-regulation. For us, we are caught between enrollment and DO13 [Department Order 13] in a hard place. Like, for example, may requirements na ganyan pero saan ba mangagaling 'yung costs ((there are these requirements but where will the costs come from), the additional budget to cover  all of those? 'Di ba sa tuition din (It will be from the tuition too, right)?" Estrada said.

He urged the department to consider the following to help keep schools from folding up:

  • Make it easier for private schools to transition to various modes of distance learning
  • Relax requirements on physical facilities for schools to be recognized, so schools can funnel their limited resources to flexible learning options, and therefore reduce the tuition and other fees of students
  • Encourage parents to settle their unpaid fees with private schools before their children are accepted into public schools

DO 13 is the DepEd order which set the distance learning requirements for private schools. (READ: Private schools to DepEd: Review 'non-negotiable' distance learning requirements)

Private schools had appealed to DepEd to review the order in June. Estrada said they received the revised order, but the only change in the document was moving the deadline for compliance from August to December 2020. (READ: After backlash, Briones orders review of distance learning requirements for private schools)

"We need help. It’s not that we do not want to comply, but if you want us to comply at that level, [we] should also get government support," Estrada said.

Estrada also said that enrollment in private schools for 2020-2021 is "alarmingly low," representing only a fourth of the number the past year. (READ: Enrollment in private schools 'alarmingly low' – group)

As of July 24, a total of 1,259,076 private school students have signed up for the school opening on August 24 – just 25% of last year's 4.4 million students, according to the Department of Education (DepEd).

Estrada said some private school students had transferred to public schools, while others probably have not enrolled yet due to financial constraints.

Many have criticized the DepEd's decision to open schools in the middle of a health crisis. Parents and students pointed out that the coronavirus lockdown has affected household finances, and many Filipinos don't even have access to a computer or the internet.

The DepEd decided to shift to distance learning for the coming school year to comply with the President's directive for schools to postpone face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. But "limited" face-to-face classes will be allowed in low-risk areas, starting January 2021. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.