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PIA Press Release
2009/06/15

Villar seeks review whether poor students were given priority slots in SUCs, public schools

By Freddie G. Lazaro

San Fernando City, La Union (June 15) -- Senator Manny Villar sought the review on the enrollees in all public schools and state universities and colleges (SUCs) whether poor students were givern priority slots.

This developed when the senator received reports that there were more students from rich families than from poor families that were enrolled in SUCs.

"This should not be the case, SUCs are there to prioritize poor but deserving students. These SUCs should screen enrolees properly, so that poor students will not run out of slots in its campuses," Villar said.

He aired his fears that the country's education system has become overly commercialized to the disadvantage of cash-strapped Filipinos if students from rich families were given priority to enrol in state schools.

"The government infuses money, through the national budget, into public schools and SUCs with the main goal of providing needy Filipinos equal access to education. These government-funded schools have a different mandate than privately run schools. They are there to cater to children from poor families and not to operate for profits," said Villar.

He cited that the ongoing economic crisis has further limited the Filipino families' ability to spend for their children's education. More than 20% of a typical Filipino household's expenses go to education, which include tuition fees and other contributions, schools supplies among others.

"Many parents have transferred their children to public schools because they cannot afford to pay the tuition fees in private schools anymore. This further increased the number of students in public schools, but genuinely poor students should not be bumped off from these schools however," Villar added.

Villar urges the continuing expansion of the Department of Education's Government Assistance for Students and Teachers of the Philippines (Gatspe) program to provide subsidy to students from low-income families to enrol in private high schools. This would ease the high level of enrolment in public high schools.

SUCs in the country include the University of the Philippines (UP), which has a population of more than 50,000 and has seven constituent universities located in 12 campuses all over the country. It also include among others, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)-the largest university in terms of student population-that has six campuses, two branches and ten extension campuses with a total of more than 52,000 students.

According to Villar, "The ongoing financial crisis has adversely affected the spending power of Filipinos. Many employees or workers have also been laid off from their jobs, thus they cannot afford to send their children to school anymore. Public schools can only accommodate so much. We must do everything we can to keep the children and the youth in school and out of the streets."

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO listed the Philippines among the East Asian countries that "face the greatest challenge" in the number of out-of-school children.

The Philippines counts among the countries with relatively low enrolment ratios. In one of its reports, it cited that there is a 'strong negative correlation' between household poverty and the primary school attendance rate in both rural and urban areas in the country-meaning the poor are not likely to go to school. (PIA Ilocos Sur) [top]

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