More on the SHS vouchers

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2016 - 9:00am

Last week, I gave the hypothetical example of Maria, a Grade 10 student now in a public high school who wants to pursue an engineering degree in college. Which Senior High School (SHS) may she go to in June of this year?

The key principle is very simple. All Grade 10 students, upon completion of Grade 10, will be entitled to vouchers. This policy is articulated on pages 2 and 3 of the Enclosure to Dep-Ed Order No. 11, series of 2015, entitled “Senior High School Voucher Policy Brief”: “DepEd has decided to issue a voucher to all public school Grade 10 completers and let the students and the marketplace decide who will redeem the vouchers and what school they will attend.”

The policy is reiterated in the other DepEd Order that has to do with the voucher system – DepEd Order No. 46, series of 2015. The Enclosure, entitled “Detailed Guidelines on the Implementation of the Senior High School Voucher Program,” says on page 1 that “All Grade 10 Junior High School completers of Public Junior High Schools and SUC/LUC Junior High Schools are qualified voucher recipients (QVR).”

Because some lower level DepEd officials are telling parents that not all Grade 10 completers are entitled to vouchers or are not allowed freedom of choice of SHS (I have heard a number of complaints about this), let me repeat this again and again for the second time once more (and then repeat it again!): Every public school student now in Grade 10, if s/he completes the grade, can choose the school where s/he can go to.

The amount of the voucher, however, depends on where the student will go. Let us return to Maria.

If Maria’s public school has an SHS and she stays there, she is not entitled to a voucher. (It does not make sense that DepEd will pay itself.)

If her public school does not have an SHS or if, for any reason, she does not want to stay there, she can go to another DepEd school with an SHS. She is still not entitled to a voucher. (Again, DepEd is not about to pay itself.)

If she goes to an LUC or SUC, she is entitled to half (50 percent) of the voucher amount. After the issuance of the two DepEd Orders, DBM, DepEd, and CHED agreed that, since SUCs and LUCs receive funding from the government, a student going to an SHS run by these need not receive the full voucher value. (The idea is to avoid double budgeting.)

If she goes to a private SHS, she is entitled to the full amount of the voucher.

For purposes of the voucher system, the private SHS does not have to be an existing private high school. It could be an SHS still to be put up by a private college or university (but, of course, the deadline for getting a permit to open an SHS has long passed). It could be an SHS in a Technical Vocational Institute (TVI) run by an industry or organization. It could even be a TVI supervised by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which is a government body. (Whether DBM, DepEd, and TESDA will work out an arrangement similar to the one with CHED is still to be determined.)

Let us add another hypothetical example. This time, let us suppose that Juan is a Grade 10 student in a private Junior High School. Is he entitled to a voucher?

This is where it gets tricky.

There are two types of students right now in private high schools. There are those that are regular or usual private school students. They (or their families) pay tuition on their own.

There are, on the other hand, public school students now studying in private schools. They are funded, at least partially, by the government.

According to the Constitution (Art. 14, Sec. 2.2), public education on the elementary and high school levels is free. Some DepEd schools, however, are overcrowded and cannot accommodate all the students who want to study in them. There is a law (RA 8545, which amended RA 6728) that allows the government to send public school students to private schools.

Since 1986, DepEd has been sending “excess” students to private schools. Since these students do not have the money to pay the full tuition in private schools (otherwise, they would have enrolled in these private schools on their own), DepEd pays part of their tuition.

This program is called Educational Service Contracting (ESC), also referred to by the name of the law, namely, Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE). The program is administered through the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE). Many people refer to the program by the particular trustee or office that handles it, the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC). For this column, let me simply refer to the whole thing as ESC.

The private school students who are really public school students under ESC are automatically entitled to receive 80% of the full voucher value.

What about private school students who are not under ESC? (To be continued)

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