The House of Representatives has approved, with no questions asked, the Department of Education’s budget of P612 billion for 2018.
On Oct. 30, 2015, then Education Secretary Armin Luistro reorganized the department’s structure from top to bottom by virtue of DepEd Order No. 52. It resulted in the dissolution of many agencies, among them the Bureau of Elementary Education, the Bureau of Secondary Education, and the Instructional Materials Council Secretariat (IMCS). It created many new offices as well, one of which is the Bureau of Learning Resources (BLR).
The BLR is now the superbody that assumes the function of developing and producing textbooks for the public schools. Under it are two offices — the Learning Resources Production Division and the Resources Quality Assurance Division. This setup effectively took away the power and privilege granted by law (Republic Act No. 8047) to private textbook publishers to develop, write and produce textbooks for public schools. It practically eliminated the need to review and evaluate the textbooks (euphemistically called “learner’s material”) published by the DepEd, which has now become both the seller and the buyer of all its self-published textbooks!
Each DepEd-published invitation to bid (ITB) is supported by an approved budget for the contract, meaning each ITB is funded and that all contracts should go through proper public bidding.
The total amount of 19 ITBs pertaining only to textbooks and learner’s materials published by the DepEd in 2016-2017 in the Inquirer is a staggering P4.1 billion. That amount was squandered by the DepEd for the reprinting of textbooks that are not K-to-12-compliant and for the purchase of its error-riddled learner’s materials.
For all that, three months after the “normally boring” (this according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones) opening of the public schools, and six years after the K to 12 Basic Education Program was introduced, many public school pupils and students still do not have textbooks to use. K-to-12-compliant textbooks for Grade 5 are just now being distributed to public elementary schools; those in Grade 6 are still using outdated (and dilapidated) textbooks.
Here, for example, are the textbooks that a Grade 1 pupil studying in one of the better public elementary schools in Manila (P. Gomez) is using: Science and Health (copyright 2000), Mabuting Asal at Wastong Pag-uugali (2000), Alibata (2005), English Expressways (2008) and Matapat na Pilipino (2010). The Grade 1 pupils of a public elementary school in Quezon City still do not have textbooks.
Why are public school students being made to use old, dilapidated and non-K-to-12-compliant textbooks that were published 17 years ago? DepEd-published learner’s materials (written by public school teachers) are even more worrisome, because many of them are full of errors. A shining example is “Science Grade 3,” which has 317 errors, or an average of 1.7 errors per page (Inquirer, 6/24/17.).
The DepEd also ordered P1.2 billion worth of science equipment for Grades 1 to 3 pupils of public elementary schools in October 2015 when science as a subject is not taught in Grades 1 and 2. The DepEd had already spent P10.5 billion for science equipment and yet, this amount still does not include the junior high school levels (Grades 7 to 10), where they are needed the most.
The IMCS was dissolved on Oct. 30, 2015, but it was still listed as the end-user in three ITBs dated Jan. 20, 2016, Feb. 11, 2016, and April 28, 2016, with a total budget of P166 million. What happened to all that money when the end-users for which they were disbursed no longer existed physically and legally?
Are stinking messes like these not worth cleaning up? Are the amounts involved in these transactions not big enough, when the sum involved in the fertilizer fund scam was “only” P728 million, when the Malampaya fund scam was a “mere” P900 million, and when the entire province of Cebu operates on a budget of “just” P3.6 billion this year?
I hope these “irregularities” will be taken into consideration when it is the Senate’s turn to deliberate on the DepEd budget.
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Antonio Calipjo Go (firstname.lastname@example.org) is academic supervisor of Marian School of Quezon City.
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