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Some students have to share modules due to tight budget – DepEd

/ 10:59 PM September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Some students will have to share their self-learning modules (SLMs) as a lack of funding for the production of the materials hound the Department of Education (DepEd.)

During the hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations on the proposed 2021 budget of DepEd, Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said modules in some subjects would be used “on rotation basis,” but they would have to be disinfected before being passed on to the next set of learners.

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This drew the concern of ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro who questioned why the module-to-student ratio could not be at 1:1.

“That is allowed. At most, four [students] but what we are saying is that two learners can use it,” San Antonio said, speaking partly in Filipino.

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Later in the hearing, Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun said that some teachers were “going out of their way to solicit help” for the printing and reproduction of modules.

“I believe this is quite alarming because I suppose our teachers cannot proceed with their instruction unless these modules are available and accessible for our students first and foremost,” Fortun said.

DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla that for the 1:1 module-to-student ratio be followed about P35 billion would be needed.

However, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only allotted P15 billion for the production of the modules under the 2021 national budget on top of P5 billion from the unprogrammed funds.

“We are readjusting our plan so that we can have a production of the self-learning materials with this amount which was given to us,” said Sevilla.

Fortun then asked where DepEd was planning to source the funds to compensate for the deficiency in the budget provided by the national government.

“Aside from the national government fund which is in the GAA [General Appropriations Act], we have our special education fund [SEF] from the local government units and we also have the Brigada Eskwela as well,” Sevilla said.

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“This may be a good opportunity to explain why some of our teachers and school heads are soliciting for some materials for the learning resources,” she added.

Sevilla stressed, however, that Brigada Eskwela was voluntary and that it should have the transparency and accountability as embedded in the program’s policy.

Fortun said the uncertainty of the source of funds was “worrisome,” especially as classes would begin on Oct. 5.

“If one of the sources would be Brigada Eskwela and SEF from the local government, we know that the certainty is vague [malabo],” Fortun said, pointing out that not all local government units were financially-capable.

According to San Antonio, DepEd is “really trying very hard to make sure that the succeeding quarters will really have fewer printed learning modules, considering that there are also local governments that have distributed gadgets.”

He acknowledged that a lot of people had reservations about sharing modules.

“If the concern is the possibility of using the modules as the instrument for the virus to be also be transferred to other learners, we are very clear that if rotational use of modules will be resorted to by our field units, then we have to make sure that proper disinfection of the learning resources will be made,” San Antonio said.

“If we allow two learners to use modules, this will already reduce our financial requirements by half,” he added.

San Antonio said that even if the funds could not be sufficient DepEd could still optimize the use of textbooks as long as students could be provided with the learning and activity sheets.

Fortun proposed that an additional P10-billion budget be included in the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) for DepEd.

“We can actually push that the P10 billion be provided for in the GAA 2021 instead of having DepEd scamper for other sources without them knowing where to get it,” Fortun said.

In the same hearing, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said  more than 24.4 million students had enrolled as of Sept. 15 for this school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Data from DepEd shows that 22.3 million students enrolled in public schools and institutions. This is equivalent to 98 percent of the students enrolled in public schools for the school year 2019 to 2020, said Briones.

Meanwhile, 2.08 million students enrolled in private schools — or only over 48 percent of students in private schools — enrolled last year.

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TAGS: 2021 DepEd budget, 2021 national budget, 2021 school opening, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, DepEd, Leonor Briones
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