DepEd should get its priorities straight: Build more classrooms | Inquirer Opinion

DepEd should get its priorities straight: Build more classrooms

/ 05:01 AM September 15, 2023

Vice President Sara Duterte’s request for confidential funds has become the subject of online discussions and materials for memes on major social media platforms.

Despite stinging criticism from the opposition and the public, Duterte’s pitch for confidential funds for the Department of Education (DepEd) obtained approval, at least at the Senate committee on finance.

The rancor took its origin from the fact that this type of fund, because of its nature and unrigid auditing, might end up being misspent. Armed clashes and recent rebel attacks that disrupt learning and undermine children’s right to education were among Duterte’s compelling reasons for the inclusion of P150 million worth of confidential funds in the DepEd’s 2024 budget. Though the safety of the learners and school personnel is imperative, there are government agencies delegated with intelligence functions. The DepEd is mandated to deliver quality education to young Filipinos. If Duterte’s biggest nightmare is the hard-to-terminate insurgency and its impact on education, then she needs to seek help from and trust the duty of our police and other state forces.


The country’s public education is replete with problems. One enduring problem is the classroom shortage.


Does learning take place if almost or more than 50 students are made to fit in one classroom like sardines in a small can? Take note that public school classrooms are not spacious. And the extreme heat has made the scenario inside the classrooms even worse. The only way to make these rooms conducive is to reduce the class size. It’s high time to set a standard classroom-learner ratio at all levels.

But this is unlikely if DepEd doesn’t appropriate enough funds for school infrastructure, especially classroom construction.

Duterte herself said that she is not blind to this reality, which is the lack of classrooms both in urban areas and in the countryside. Since she took over the agency with the biggest budget share, she has brought reforms, such as the removal of classroom decorations and curriculum modifications to achieve an ideal teaching-learning process. But this is not possible if students are not provided with ideal learning spaces.

In her speech during the Basic Education Report, Duterte identified the soaring classroom backlogs as the “most pressing issue pounding the Philippine basic education.” Since there’s an increase in enrollment every year, there’s also a need to rehabilitate and construct classrooms.

The country is a favorite track of typhoons that formed in the Pacific. Some typhoons brought heavy rains and strong winds, responsible for the destruction of school facilities. In our province, there are still surviving traces of Typhoon “Odette.” There are still classrooms with no roofs and in a state of disrepair. School leaders are clamoring for assistance since their school maintenance and other operating expenses are seemingly small.

The agency has missed its target of building the desired number of classrooms in the previous years. What can we expect in 2024? In the proposed budget, the DepEd set aside P10 billion for the national classroom budget. The amount could only build no more than 7,000 classrooms. For the record, the country has a backlog of 159,000 classrooms. Maybe this is the reason why DepEd turns halfhearted when it comes to filling the gaps in school infrastructure.


Instead of proving the legitimacy of having confidential funds, why not seek all means to increase the budget intended for classroom shortages? The P150-million confidential funds, as one senator has noted during the deliberations, could be spent on building almost 60 classrooms.

There’s way more significant “intelligence” that we want to cultivate among our learners. May Duterte, our DepEd boss, get her priorities straight.

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Jeric Olay, Ichon National High School, Southern Leyte

TAGS: classrooms, DepEd, Sara Duterte

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