By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday urged the government to address the backlog in the delivery of educational services on which the success of the K-to-12 program is dependent on.
Recto made the appeal after the Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of Republic Act 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, which expanded to 13 years the length of basic education in the country – from kindergarten to Grade 12.
But the Senate leader believed that the K-to-12 progrma’s problem was “not legal, but logistical,” saying the lack of classrooms, school equipment and teachers challenge its effectiveness.
Recto recalled that the premise on which the K-to-12 program was implemented was that classrooms, teachers and equipment will already be in place to receive enrollees in the additional two years of senior high school in the basic education curriculum.
“That should have been the precondition. But the delivery of facilities was behind the curve. Grabe ang backlog na ilang taon ang kakailanganin para mawipe-out ang mga ito (There is grave backlog that it will require several years to be completely wiped out),” he said.
Suffering from these procurement setbacks were, particularly, the technical-vocational education programs, Recto noted.
“We should remember that K-to-12’s promise was the graduation of employable high school graduates, many in the tech-voc field, but the absence of teachers and equipment betrayed this promise,” he said.
Recto, however, praised the current Department of Education’s (DepEd) leadership, led by Secretary Leonor Briones, “for reducing the huge backlog they had inherited. They have had to do a lot of catching up and are successful in this.”
“To the credit of Secretary Briones and her team, their fund utilization and project completion rate are increasing,” Recto added.
Citing government data, Recto said only 114,019 teachers were hired from July 2016 to June 2018, short of the 188,078 teacher items created from April 2016 to August 2018. The DepEd targeted to hire 81,100 teachers.
During the Senate’s committee deliberation on the DepEd’s proposed 2019 budget last September, DepEd officials said they have completed the construction of some 82,000 classrooms.
But the DepEd said the country school system still lacked 44,000 classroom units.
From this year’s budget of P105.5 billion for basic education facilities, Deped’s appropriation for the construction of new classrooms was slashed to P34.6 billion.
Briones said the amount could only construct 4,110 classrooms, way below the minimum annual additional classroom requirement of 10,000.
The agency initially asked for a P130-billion budget, saying it is prepared to construct 44,000 lacking classrooms.
Senators, earlier, assured to work on increasing the classroom budget when they formally debate on the 2019 proposed national budget.