Abad: Quality education remains top priority of Aquino administration

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Jan. 27 (PNA) — Advancing quality education in the country continues to be a priority under the Aquino administration, with the education sector claiming a significant part of the total P841.8-billion allocation for social services in the FY 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Social services, which represent 37.2 percent of the total P2.265-trillion National Budget for the year, are the cornerstone of the administration’s poverty reduction plan.

Programs and priorities under this sector include those that will improve public education, health care, and other anti-poverty services across the country.

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said a considerable portion of the 2014 national budget “will help ensure the continued improvement of our public education system.”

“Last year, we were successful in narrowing down most of our educational requirement gaps, and we’re even more determined now to address the remaining deficiencies completely,” he said.

The DBM reported that the Department of Education (DepEd) has been given the biggest budget among all national government agencies this year, with an allocation amounting to P309.43 billion.

Comprising this is a P44.6-billion appropriation for the construction, repair and rehabilitation of at least 43,000 kindergarten, elementary and secondary school buildings nationwide.

“The administration’s education initiatives are also complemented by our efforts to ensure that children are able to enroll and, even more important, remain in school until they graduate. These are some very necessary investments in the country’s human capital that the 2014 budget wholly supports,” said Abad.

He cited the expanded Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program (CCT) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), wherein a total of 4.3 million student beneficiaries will be sufficiently covered to allow them to graduate from high school.

Among other education targets for the year include the procurement of additional textbooks and workbooks to attain the ideal 1:1 student per textbook ratio.

In support of the K-12 Program, an appropriation of P1.7 billion has likewise been set aside for the procurement of over 42 million learning modules and teaching guides.

The DBM chief also announced that various programs and projects designed to enhance students’ skills and capabilities will be implemented this year.

This includes the school-based management installation support (P1 billion), the Alternative Delivery Mode Project (e-IMPACT) in the DepEd’s regular budget, the Abot-Alam Program (P1.97 billion), and the Basic Education Madrasah Program (P535 million), among others.

Abad said financial assistance to in-need students will also be continued this year through various scholarship programs.

These include the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) program, which will be implemented this year with a budget of P7.45 billion.

Other scholarship programs will also be under the wing of other agencies, including the Commission on Higher Education, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and various State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) nationwide.

The DBM Secretary also mentioned the creation of around 34,700 new teaching and non-teaching positions with an allocated budget of P8.56 billion, which will help bring the teacher-to-pupil ratio to an ideal 1:45.

A stand-by appropriation of P655 million for Quick Response Funds (QRF) has likewise been allotted specifically for the repair, rehabilitation, renovation and/or replacement of school buildings and essential teaching aids and materials that may be destroyed by natural calamities.

“We remain mindful of the potential challenges that may hamper our progress this year, especially with respect to providing quality education to Filipino students. The 2014 National Budget considers these possible setbacks — such as typhoons and calamities — so that emergencies don’t endanger our broader goal of establishing a robust public education system,” said Abad. (PNA)