Private schools can’t do it alone, need gov’t help | Inquirer Opinion

Private schools can’t do it alone, need gov’t help

The education sector is in crisis, with Filipino K-12 students performing at a lower level than their Asean neighbors. K-12 is the foundation for higher learning and its failure to equip students with the necessary skills will weigh heavily on their and our country’s future.

Even pre-pandemic, the number of private higher education institutions (HEIs) has declined, as does enrollment in private universities. Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) data showed that the number of private HEIs fell to 1,673 in school year 2017-2018 from 1,710 in the previous SY, while enrollment declined to 2.98 million from 3.59 million. In SY 2022-2023, CHEd reported that there were 1,977 HEIs, down from 1,992. Private HEIs similarly decreased in number, from 1,729 to 1,708. Private school enrollment, however, increased to 2.47 million in 2022-2023, from 2.07 million. Public HEIs also saw an enrollment increase to 2.33 million, from 2.1 million.

While the closure of some private HEIs may be due to the K-12 transition, local colleges and universities made enrollment competition tougher. The lack of school facilities, infrastructure, and teaching staff also remain critical challenges, especially to public institutions. Then there’s the issue of sustainability. We want enrollees to reach the finish line of their academic goals, but a CHEd report to the Senate last year projected a dropout rate in colleges and universities of 35.15 percent for SY 2023-2024.

The job-skills mismatch continues to hound our educational system, with employers offering thousands of job openings but struggling to find qualified workers. A study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies showed that only 20 percent of senior high school graduates landed jobs, and those employed got menial work. It is unfortunate, too, that millions are unemployed when, say, the dollar-earning information technology business process outsourcing sector is desperately scrambling for talent.


The challenges in education are daunting. But private schools like the University of the East (UE) are not weighed down by government bureaucracy, can respond faster to the demands of the market, and address skills mismatch that concern employers. Strong linkages to businesses give private education institutions a unique perspective. They are better positioned in updating and adapting the curriculum to meet current and future job market needs.

But private HEIs, even with the likes of UE’s tuition incentives for deserving college enrollees, do not have the magic wand to solve all our education woes. And we cannot do it alone. Greater consultation and collaboration between the government and private schools on education policies and programs are crucial if we are to rectify past flaws and recover from the learning crisis.

While the government has yet to build new facilities, private HEIs already have the needed infrastructure in place. The government can simply and more efficiently tap us and subsidize the tuition of poor students. The linkages of private institutions with industries can also strengthen the country’s research programs, driving innovation, and making education more relevant and forward-looking.

HEIs can provide continuing education and upskilling to address the fast-evolving requirements of employers, and enable our human resource to remain globally competitive. The private sector has the agility that government institutions cannot match. Public school educators who reach the retirement age of 65 are often equipped with multi-industry knowledge and wisdom from decades of experience, and can thus be recruited into private HEIs to teach the youth. This can bridge generations, strengthen social bonds, and provide students with solid and extensive knowledge and know-how. We in the private sector have the flexibility to engage seasoned educators promptly.


Likewise, we in academia’s private sector can promptly act, raise concerns, and provide recommendations and assistance on matters affecting our very existence, and more so the future of Philippine education. Not being supported and funded by tax money means we need to keep a keen eye on our finances and ensure that we spend our funds judiciously and wisely, while providing the best education to our students.

The urgency of the situation cannot be ignored. More substantial and timely government support for private education is crucial. Public funds must be programmed and spent wisely to yield the best possible results for our country. Effective and extensive public-private partnership will solidify whole-of-government efforts to restore the quality and robustness of Philippine education. We in the private sector can do so much more with adequate government support.



Dr. Zosimo M. Battad is the president of the University of the East, a private academic institution founded in 1946 that, for a time, had the highest enrollment in Asia.

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TAGS: CHEd, opinion

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