Year in and year out education is provided with the biggest budget under the General Appropriations Act and for next year’s version of the law, this remains the top priority.
Senator Sonny Angara said the reconciled version of the P4.1 trillion national budget that was approved by Congress granted an increase of P17.1 billion for the Department of Education (DepEd), the State Universities and Colleges (SUC), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to fund various programs.
A total of P8.349 billion was added to the budgets of the 114 state universities and colleges, including P2.786 billion for the University of the Philippines System to augment its budget for hospital services program, renovation and construction of various buildings and the improvement of its fiber optic network, among others.
The rest of the funds will be used by the SUCs for research awards and the conduct of activities for sports and development, ICT and campus modernization programs.
CHED was granted an increase of P7.1 billion that will go to the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education; the provision of assistance and incentives, scholarships and grants through the Student Financial Assistance Program.
Another P1 billion was provided to support the Private Education Students Financial Assistance Program.
For the DepEd, a net increase of P1.697B was granted to finance various programs aimed at addressing the needs of the education sector and improving the overall quality of education in the country.
Among the programs to be funded by the increase in the DepEd’s budget is the national assessment system for basic education.
This is done to determine if the students are meeting the learning standards; to help provide information to improve instructional practices; assess/evaluate effectiveness and efficiency of education service delivery using learning outcomes as indicators; and provide empirical information as bases for curriculum, learning delivery assessment and policy reviews, and policy formulation.
“There were many priorities in the crafting of the national budget but education is always on top of the list. We are far from achieving our ideal standard in education and this was evident in the results of the 2018 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) where the Philippines was at the bottom of 79 countries in math, science and reading literacy,” Angara said.
“We must make sure that all children are given the proper education. And we must continuously improve our standards so that when our children graduate, they will be competitive,” Angara added.
The DepEd’s budget for 2020 will also fund the special education program, education service contracting program, and the strengthening of the National Educators Academy of the Philippines. Schools that are still without electricity or those that require upgrading of their electrical connections will also be funded under the 2020 national budget.
More school children will also be covered by the school-based feeding program under the 2020 national budget.
“Proper nutrition is key to improving the learning capabilities of school children. That is why the school-based feeding program is important because healthy children will have less absences and will be able to focus on studying more compared to when they are hungry,” said Angara who is the principal author of the Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act.
Under the 2020 national budget, funding for RA 11194 or the Conservation of the Gabaldon School Buildings Act, which was signed into law in January this year, will also be made available.
The construction of schools in isolated and disadvantaged areas of the country under the Last Mile Schools Program will also be funded by the increase in the budget of the DepEd.
Also included in the increase in the DepEd’s budget is the voucher program for private high school, which will provide qualified senior high school students studying in private schools with financial assistance so they no longer have to worry about the possibility of dropping out of school because they cannot pay their tuition.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority was also given an increase in its budget for the implementation of the Tulong Trabaho Act, the training for work scholarship program, and special training for employment program.
"The President has always been an advocate of providing affordable and quality education for all Filipinos. He has demonstrated this commitment when he signed into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in 2017. We are confident he will once again support the interventions made by Congress to further strengthen the country’s education system," Angara said.
To help ensure that DepEd and other the government agencies are spending its funds efficiently, Angara said the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Public Expenditures (JCOCPE) will be meeting on a quarterly basis starting next year.
The JCOCPE is headed by the chairpersons of the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Appropriations.