/ 5 May 2021

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian called for a bigger budget for the education sector next year to help it recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The chairman of the Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture batted for an allocation of up to 6 percent of the gross domestic product, the recommendation by the United Nations under the Sustainable Development Goal 4 to help spur the sector’s recovery.

The education sector was given a P759 billion budget this year, or 4 percent of GDP.

A big chunk of the budget will go to basic education.

Aside from meeting the UN spending targets, Gatchalian also proposed that the government ensure efficient funding at the local level to improve learner outcomes, provide coverage to vulnerable groups, and adjust the national budget to adapt to the “new normal.”

“We want to make sure that the budget for the education sector is responsive to the new normal by re-channeling some of the programs to distance learning — increase the use of the internet and protect the health of our teachers and our school officials,” he emphasized.

The senator said that channeling resources to education is crucial for the success of learners.

He cited an analysis of the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment which showed that the Philippines spends an estimated P8,474 per student aged 6-15 over the theoretical duration of their studies, lower than the expenses of other Southeast Asian countries per student.

Singapore, for instance, spends an estimated P109,060 per student and learners there scored 549 in Reading, ranking second among 79 countries that participated in the said global assessment in 2018 while Filipino learners scored the lowest or 340 in Reading.

To help allocate more resources at the local level, Gatchalian proposed the expanded use of the Special Education Fund in Senate Bill 1579 or the 21st Century School Boards Act.

Under the measure, the expanded use of the SEF will cover salaries of public elementary and high school teachers, non-teaching, utility, and security personnel. Salaries of preschool teachers, capital outlay for pre-schools, operation and maintenance of Alternative Learning System programs, distance education classes and training programs are also included in the proposed expansion of the SEF coverage.