DepEd Chief: We can’t impose cap on tuition hikes

Photo via CNNPhilippines

By Pia Garcia/CNN Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) cannot tell private schools how much they charge for tuition increase, Secretary Leonor Briones told CNN Philippines Sunday.

Asked about a reasonable rate of tuition increase, she said, “Hindi naman natin yan masasabi kasi…merong schools nagse-specialze sa STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) or sa technology, ang demand niyan is very high. Supposing yung mag-specialize sa computer technology, supposing it’s a brand new school, so we cannot say na hanggang dito ka lang mag-increase.”

[Translation: We cannot say because there are schools which specialize in (Science Technology Engineering Math) or technology, and the demand for that is very high. Supposing a school specializes in computer technology, supposing it’s a brand new school, so we cannot say ‘this is the limit of how high you can increase (fees).]

Briones said private schools had to comply with the law before requests for additional tuition are granted.

“Ineevaluate yan, rine-review yan. Hindi basta-basta binibigay [These are being evaluated, these are reviewed. We don’t grant it freely],” Briones added.

Fewer schools to raise tuition

The Education Secretary says the decreasing number of schools granted tuition hike from 1,013 in 2017 to 947 schools this year may be due to market forces.

“You have to relate it to what is happening to the education environment. Kasi, alam niyo naman na naipasa na yung batas na nagbibigay ng free tuition sa state universities and colleges at saka sa mga government high schools and elementary schools. Kung libre doon, it does not make sense to magpapataas ng tuition, kasi pag masyadong mataas ang increase ng tuition…e di lilipat sa libre,” she said.

[Translation:You have to relate it to what is happening to the education environment. As you know the law is providing free tuition in state universities and colleges, and government high schools and elementary schools. If it’s free there, it does not make sense to raise tuition because if it’s too high…they will move to free (schools).]

Briones added parents have a choice to take their children out from expensive private schools and enroll them in public schools, which she noted have become much more competitive.

Briones said she believed this was the reason for the lower number of private schools asking for an increase in tuition – they have to be able to keep the students they already had.

“It’s all about competition,” she said.

The Secretary also speculated that according to the law, 70 percent of an increase in tuition should go to teachers’ salaries.

“Now, ngayon kung halimbawa last year nagpataas na sila ng tuition or two years ago nagpataas na sila ng tuition tapos magpataas na naman sila ngayon, tapos mapupunta sa teachers salaries, baka para sa isip nila sobrang madalas yung pagtaas ng salary ng teachers nila,” she said.

[Translation: If they had increased the tuition last year for the salary of teachers, and have asked for another increase this year. It might seem that they frequently increase the teachers’ salaries.]

In a separate interview Sunday, League of Filipino Students spokesperson Kara Taggaoa said, despite the lower number of schools seeking a tuition increase, little improvement has been seen in the condition of students.

The increase, she said, was only an added burden to parents already struggling with rising prices of goods due to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. Their group was opposing the increase.

“Makikita po natin na yung pagtaas ng tuition and other school fees sa basic and secondary education ay walang ibang idudulot kundi pagpapahirap sa mga magulang at estudyante. Walang kwenta ang quality education kung hindi ito matatamasa ng mga kabataan,” said Taggaoa.

[Translation: We can see that the rise in tuition and other school fees of basic and secondary education will only be an added burden to parents and students. Quality education will be worthless if this will not be available to the youth.]

She disagreed with Briones’ claim that public schools were becoming more competitive with private schools as they have observed public schools whose facilities were still lacking, and teachers have told them they have not been fully trained to implement the new curriculum under the K to 12 program.

Briones said the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC) monitors compliance of private schools with regulations set by the DepEd, such allocating 70 percent of tuition increases to compensations and benefits to teachers and non-teaching personnel.

Limit on homework for students?

Briones also spoke up on the issue of limiting homework given to students on weekends.

She said the policy has been in place even before she assumed office.

“We are making sure it is being implemented… Many of the things that you learn, you learn not necessarily in school but in the school of life. You learn them at home, in school, in playing with your friends, from what other activities you do. And you have to give that opportunity,” she said.

Briones added she does not want to have children burdened with so much homework that end up being done by parents or grandparents.

“The policy…which I am pursuing, and which was started by my predecessor – everything, formal schoolwork has to be done in school. After that, the child is free to play, to bond with his parents, to bond with his friends, and learn from other life experiences at home and also with his playmates,” she added.

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