Manila’s parochial school enrollments dropping—RCAM official

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MANILA, Nov. 16, 2014—The Archdiocese of Manila has (RCAM) has raised the alarm on the ongoing decrease in enrolment in its parochial schools, fearing a total drain of students if the trend continues unchecked.

Dr. Judith D. Aldaba, assistant superintendent of the RCAM Educational System (RCAM ES) reported that parochial schools in the archdiocese on average loses 3% of its students each year. (Photo: CBCP News)

In her report to Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle at Villa San Miguel, Dr. Judith D. Aldaba, assistant superintendent of the RCAM Educational System (RCAM ES) shared its parochial schools on average loses 3% of its students each year.

According to her, RCAM ES lost as many as 2,248 students from a total enrollment of 29,872 for the school year 2014 -2015.

“If most of them moved to public schools, then we deprived about 2,000 students the opportunity to be evangelized … because, more than giving our students quality education, we want them to be catechized and proclaim the Good News,” she said.

Aldaba expressed concern that RCAM ES’s low tuition fee, around P15,000 to P17,000, cannot even meet the desire to give teachers competitive salaries.

She explained most of the financial assistance (25%) RCAM ES receives comes from the Department of Education (DepEd), which grants students from public schools enrolling in private high schools a P10,000-subsidy until graduation, while its school-sponsored financial assistance is only 6%.

“RCAM ES, being a young diocesan system, is yet to establish an Archdiocesan Scholarship Program (ASP) for our students who long for Catholic education,” she stressed.

Evangelization through education

RCAM ES, a communion of “Christ-centered schools”, is unified by the vision to evangelize through Catholic Education. Its member-schools collaborate in the mission of providing “excellent Catholic education”, and nurture each person’s giftedness to form men and women of competence and character who will transform society and strengthen the Church.

Guided by the core values of “solidarity, service, stewardship, excellence, and love for the poor”, RCAM ES runs 27 schools in Manila, Pasay City, Mandaluyong City, San Juan City, and Makati City: 20 in Manila, two in Makati, three in Pasay City, one in Mandaluyong, and San Juan, respectively.

Two schools, both higher educational institutions, are under the Daughters of Charity: Sta. Isabel College and San Juan de Dios Educational Foundation. One is a minor seminary, Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary.

The rest of the 24 schools offer basic education (from early childhood education to high school).

Six schools have less than 350 students, one of which, San Pablo Apostol Learning Center in Velasquez St., Tondo, Manila, offers early childhood education only. Most graduates opt to enrol in public schools when they reach Grade 1.

St. Pius X Parochial School in Paco, Manila, and Holy Family Parochial School in San Andres Bukid, San Andres, Manila both have an enrollment of a little over 100, and offer elementary education only. Likewise, their students enroll in public schools after finishing the Grade 6.

‘Oldest parochial school’

Ermita Catholic School (ECS), one of the oldest parochial schools, which marked its centennial recently, now has 87 students in its high school department. Its grade school department was phased out three years ago as it continued to lose students, incurring deficits at the end of each school year.

Tagle, however, ordered school heads not to close down their schools, if only because these are not financially viable. The ECS administration plans to reopen its grade school department soon.

Two schools with complete basic education program but have less than 350 students are San Rafael Parochial School in Tondo, Manila, and Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Bacood, Sta. Mesa, Manila. Both schools suffer a drop in enrollment
for the reason already known: after Grade 6, parents transfer their children to public schools.

Mission schools

“We call these six schools our mission schools as our financial statements would show that we are not even ‘breaking even’ by the end of the school year, but we continue our operations as we do not want to lose the opportunity for the children of our parishioners to get good Catholic education,” Aldaba noted.

RCAM ES low medium-sized schools with 500 to 1500 enrolees are:
• Guadalupe Catholic School in Makati
• Jaime Cardinal Sin Learning Center (JCSLC) in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila
• Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School (formerly Sta. Mesa Parochial School) in Sta. Mesa, Manila
• St. Anthony School in Singalong, Manila
• St. Joseph School in Gagalangin, Tondo, St. Joseph School in Pandacan, Manila
• St. Peter the Apostle School in Paco, Manila
• San Isidro Catholic School in Pasay City
• St. John the Baptist Catholic School (formerly Holy Child Parochial School) in San Juan
• The Nazarene Catholic School (formerly Quiapo Parochial School) in Quiapo, Manila

Most RCAM ES schools are categorized as low medium-sized schools with average enrollees of less than 1,000.
One of its youngest schools, JCSLC is the only RCAM ES school where students do not pay for tuition. While other RCAM ES schools have open-admission policy, JCSLC has a selective-admission policy.

For its part, the Nazarene Catholic School is assisted by the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. It has supported over 100 students each school year through the years.

RCAM ES’s medium-sized schools with between 1,500 and 3,000 students are:
• Espritu Santo Parochial School in Sta. Cruz, Manila
• Holy Child Catholic School in Tondo
• Manila Cathedral School in Tondo
• Manila, Holy Trinity Academy in Sampaloc, Manila
• Malate Catholic School in Malate, Manila
• San Felipe Neri Parochial School in Mandaluyong

Only one school, Paco Catholic School in Paco, Manila, boasts of more than 3,000 students. The school celebrated its 100th year in 2012 two years ago, and used to be the “biggest parochial school in the world”.

Benefit concert

Besides Tagle, Aldaba’s audience included representatives from the Jesuit Communications Foundation (JesCom) who intend to mount a benefit concert which aims to help solve the problem of RCAM ES by providing the scholarship funds needed to keep its students studying in parochial schools.

Dubbed “Patron of the Arts”, the charity event is scheduled on Dec. 12, the “Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe”, 7 p.m. at the Meralco Theater.

The fund-raising pre-Christmas concert is set to affirm Filipino talent by showcasing the year’s best performing artists who have distinguished themselves by winning awards or getting featured in top-rating shows on TV or in theater.

“It is for this reason, to arrest the transfer of our students due to financial reason that I get excited of this endeavor. I remember Cardinal Chito, in one of our meetings of the Superintendent’s Council of RCAM ES that he emphasized: we should not look at how much savings or excess of revenues we have at the end of the school year, but we should look at how many scholarship grants or financial assistance did we extend to our students,” Aldaba stated.

“I am very hopeful that no child in our RCAM ES schools shall be left behind because we have now means to extend to him or her financial assistance for as long as he or she is enrolled in our schools. With your support, we envision that no child leaves an RCAM ES school anymore. This is the best gift we can give to this generation,” she added. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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