Philippine education spending still below UN standard
MANILA, Philippines—Despite the nominal increase in the education budget over recent years, state spending on education has actually declined when compared to the Gross Domestic Product, representing just a third of the United Nation’s recommended national investment on education.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro himself noted this trend in a recent presentation on the state of the country’s education system before Philippine Business for Education, an organization of businesses supporting education reforms.
According to Luistro, state spending in 1997 and 1998 hit a high of 3.2 percent of the country’s GDP, higher than the current level of 2.1 percent.
The current education budget is P238.8 billion, higher than last year’s P207 billion but lower if taken as a ratio of GDP. Last year’s budget was 2.3 percent of GDP, a benchmark used globally to gauge how much governments spend on education.
The UN recommends that governments spend at least six percent of their GDP on education.
“If we work hard for a bigger share in the budget, if we were back to 3.2 percent rather than 2.1 percent, we’d have a budget of at least P327 billion,” Luistro said in his presentation before business leaders in Makati City.
Luistro also noted that per capita spending for each of the more than 20 million public school students every school year has increased to P10,700, from P9,400 in 2011 and P8,000 in 2010. But despite the nominal increases, the amount is actually “going down compared to inflation.”
Asked later if DepEd has asked the President to raise education spending levels, Luistro said the department was aware of competing state needs and was pursuing alternative sources of funding to address critical shortages in education resources.
“We talk about that in Cabinet meetings and we talk about competing needs. For example, we have to invest in energy. So we talk about that and we’re balancing it,” said Luistro.
He also noted that DepEd, the country’s largest bureaucracy, continues to receive the largest allocation in the annual state budget and has seen the largest increase in spending among government departments in the last two years.
“What’s important is that we are looking at other sources of funding. Example, there is the SEF (Special Education Fund) of local government units,” said Luistro.
DepEd is also pursuing partnerships with the private sector to address unresolved shortages in classrooms, textbooks, teachers, school desks and sanitation facilities. The current classroom shortage is at 50,921 while DepEd lacks around 74,000 teachers.
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