MANILA, Philippines — The “sariling sikap” production of learning modules by public schools will cost at least P15.1 billion next year, one of the biggest items in the Department of Education’s proposed P629.8 billion obligation budget for 2022, Sen. Joel Villanueva said Tuesday.
“To compare, the budget for new classrooms is about P2.92 billion. For new chairs and desks, about P1.1 billion,” Villanueva, vice-chairman of the Senate basic education committee, said in a statement.
He added that the money to be spent for limited- or single-use modules which are printed by schools and picked up by parents or home-delivered to students “is far bigger than the budget for textbooks.”
Even the P7.9-billion construction budget sought by DepEd for next year is half of the proposed outlay for self-learning modules, Villanueva said.
But the senator noted that actual spending for modules will exceed the P15.1-billion earmarked in the budget “as each school can augment this from their maintenance and other operating expenses fund.”
The P15.1 billion is “the price we have to pay for failing to rein in the pandemic, which, in turn, has prevented the resumption of face-to-face classes,” Villanueva said. “It is also the penalty we are paying for our poor digital infrastructure which has made remote learning an ordeal for teachers, learners, and parents.”
“But all of this pales in comparison to the damage done to millions of learners in terms of knowledge forfeited, which education experts describe as the so-called ‘COVID slide,’ a national tragedy so great that it is impossible to quantify,” he said.
The senator further noted that by supplying printed materials to 22.75 million public school students last school year, DepEd became the country’s “de facto biggest publishing house.”
DepEd told: Prevent errors in modules
He urged DepEd to comply with what he called the single, most important conditionality attached to the P15.1-billion SLM fund: the prevention of errors.
Special provisions of the DepEd budget require the agency’s “Error Watch” initiative to proactively review learning modules and rectify, withdraw or replace those which contain errors.
Last school year, several errors spotted in DepEd modules made headlines and drew condemnation from the public.