By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday called on the government to continue providing textbooks for schoolchildren despite the transition to blended learning.
In a statement, the Senate leader said textbooks are “more urgent” than transistor radios that the government plans to distribute as another alternative to online classes, especially in far-flung areas of the country.
He said the “one book to one student” ratio should be observed to help children to keep up with the online classes at home.
“Broadband learning does not cancel the need for books. On the contrary— it makes it imperative. Hindi ibig sabihin na dahil via internet na, wala nang instructional materials (Just because classes will be via internet doesn’t mean that we will forego instructional materials),” Recto said.
“Kung wala na ngang laptop, wala pang signal, tapos wala pang libro, eh paano na ang mga bata. (If they have no laptops, no signal, and books, what will happen to the children)?” he pointed out.
“If we can print money, why can’t we print books? The ones public school students are using cost as little as P50. Kung may perang pang transistor radios, dapat mayroon ding pang libro. (If we have money to buy transistor radios, then there should also be resources for the purchase of books),” he continued.
Recto, meanwhile, acknowledged that there might have problems in achieving the 1:1 book-to-learner ratio due to quarantines being enforced to counter the spread of COVID-19.
But he also noted the “steady decline in Malacañang-requested appropriations for textbooks and instructional materials.”
According to Recto, the DepEd’s budget for textbooks this year was P963 million, half of last year’s P1.8 billion. “In 2015, it was P3.46 billion, P4.1 billion in 2016, P3 billion in 2017, P2.9 billion in 2018,” he said.
This year’s fund was further reduced by some P8 billion due to the realignment of resources for COVID-19 response. Recto said this should be returned to serve the 27.2 million Filipino students in their blended education.
President Duterte recently bared that he is considering the purchase of radios for poor students who do not have access to internet. He said he would look for funds for the purchase of transistor radios.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, on the other hand, said this would be “stop gap measure” to allow children to continue their education.
“At least meron silang gagamitin (they have something to use) to supplement their learning,” Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate basic education committee, said in an online interview with reporters.
While he agreed that online learning remains to be the most effective replacement for physical classes, since this is more interactive and “like the classroom”, he said majority of the population cannot afford such a privilege.
He also opposed proposals for a one-year “academic freeze” as this would only benefit private school students whose education are more advanced than those in public schools.
“The best alternative is the radio, kung ano ang pwede natin ibigay (that’s what we can give) for now. This is a big challenge, the solutions are not perfect, even the outcome will not be as what we want, but my view here is to start from somewhere, we have to do something,” he said.
Classes are scheduled to open on August 24, 2020 but Duterte maintained that there will be no face-to-face sessions until a vaccine against COVID-19 is discovered.
The DepEd suggested the shift to various learning delivery options such as blended and distance learning in light of the pandemic. Printed materials for distribution to students, online learning platform, and television and radio-based instruction were also proposed.