By Merlina Malipot
Private schools, particularly the smaller ones, may be forced to stop operations once the Department of Education (DepEd) implements the revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools, the Federation of Associations of Private Schools Administrators (FAPSA) said on Tuesday.
The new regulations will mark the death knell for private schools, FAPSA said.
Under the revised manual, it states that there shall be two types of DepEd authority which will be issued to private schools or learning institutions. These are the “DepEd Permit” – a two-year license granted to a school-applicant that offers basic education program; and the “DepEd Recognition” – a 20-year or a 50-year license, depending on the ownership of the school site. Private schools need these in order to “undertake education operations upon the compliance to the application and minimum standard requirements” set by the manual.
As part of the requirements for “DepEd Recognition,” the school-applicant must submit proof of ownership/agreement to use school site; the school “shall have a floor area of at least 5,000 square meters (sqm) or one-half hectare for rural areas and 2,500 sqm for urban areas”; and the school site “must not be a high risk area” whether natural or man-made.
Under the same manual, all schools in basic education that enjoyed permanent recognition will only be given a 50-year lifespan and have to reapply after expiration,” FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag said, adding most schools have existed for decades already.
For instance, Kasilag cited St. Nicholas School in Marikina where he is currently the administrator. “It is already 42 years. That means its existence is now numbered,” Kasilag said.
“Right now, my area is just around 1,000 [sqm], therefore, DepEd can close my school,” Kasilag lamented, citing the new floor area requirement. He noted that this “shall also be the fate of most private schools in Metro Manila owing to scarcity and inflated value of lands.”
Kasilag also lamented that no consultation was made by DepEd with stakeholders before drafting the new manual.
“We asked all the associations that we have link up with but they, too, were not aware of this manual,” he said.
Kasilag noted that the Marikina Private School Administrators Association (Mariprisa) – which is affiliated with FAPSA – received a first copy of the manual ahead of any organization. “However, it was also already the last week due for submission to the office of the Secretary (July 30) giving us only 3 days, that is, Friday to Tuesday (July 26 to July 30) to make comments,” he lamented.
FAPSA also cited other provisions that “we feel the manual has gone overboard.” These include the provisions citing private schools “cannot withhold transfer credentials of students even with arrears” and that the three-year probationary period of teachers in the private schools “will now be reduced to six months” as per Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) policy, Kasilag said.
Once the new manual is implemented, Kasilag said DepEd officials “can access the record of students and premises of private schools at any time.” He added that DepEd can “even copy therefrom as well as question any employee of schools and investigate any fact.” This, he noted, is “invasion of privacy already but they make the agency beyond this policy.”
Kasilag also noted that with the revised manual, DepEd “now has appellate jurisdiction over private schools, thus it now has power to review, amend, and overrule decisions just like any trial court or other lower tribunal.” He lamented that DepEd “does not have time to attend to our problems yet they even expand it unconstitutionally.”
While the manual has not been finalized, FAPSA expressed disappointment on DepEd’s failure to take into consideration the plight of private schools. “It is sad for it is the end of the road for the administrators that once thought it enjoyed the respect of DepEd being a complimentary partner as enshrined in the Constitution,” Kasilag said. With this, he said DepEd further pushes private schools, especially the smaller ones, on the brink of closure.