Parents gather at the Philippines Embassy in Abu Dhabi yesterday to discuss concerns regarding the downsizing of the Philippine National School from 1,200 to 650 pupils. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Desperate Filipino parents have turned to their embassy for help after a school announced plans to reduce pupil numbers by nearly half ahead of the 2011-12 academic year.

The parents gathered yesterday to protest against the decision of the Philippine National School (PNS), which is housed in a villa, to reduce the number of pupils from 1,200 to 650, leaving 550 children in limbo.

A circular was sent to parents last month explaining that the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) had instructed the school to downsize.

The move is part of ADEC's plan to phase out villa schools in the emirate due to health and safety concerns. The council said it would relocate the displaced pupils to other schools to ensure there is no disruption to their education.

But parents said they have no other options.

Very worried

Donde Cotanda, a sales executive, whose child is in grade six at PNS, said: "We are very worried because we want our children to have a Philippines-based curriculum so they will be able to continue their higher education successfully back home.

"We wish that we were informed about these changes earlier because we could have then made the necessary arrangements, including sending our children back home if necessary."

Filipino Ambassador Grace Reluclo Princesa told Gulf News she and other embassy officials met with parents of both PNS and PISCO Private School, another school that has received a notification to downsize, and will then raise their concerns with ADEC.

"We had always passed every inspection by both ADEC and the Civil Defence, but when we received the notice in March we were shocked," PNS principal Dr Ofelia Padilla said.

"The parents weren't alerted immediately because we were hoping to come to a resolution with ADEC."

The displaced pupils will be enrolled at the newly-established 21st Century School.

Alma Delacerna, a lawyer and mother of two daughters, Lex, 13, and eight-year-old Alyssa, said: "We hope that we can be granted just one year's extension so that we can do the necessary preparations for our children's future education. If no extension is given, I will consider home schooling my daughters."

Health and safety issue

The Philippine National School (PNS) was told in March it needed to reduce numbers, according to the Abu Dhabi Edcuation Council (ADEC).

"We met with the school and Embassy officials and re-explained the situation again in July," the statement said. "The school had not notified the parents in March, hence the concern now for the placement of their children. We plan to meet with the school again next week but the story will be the same. Villas are not built to be schools and in this case, serious health and safety issues have given cause to ADEC to issue a letter that will downsize the student population."