Solon wants to increase DepEd budget for printing self-learning materials

To ensure that all students in public schools will receive their printed modules this school year, Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence “Law” Fortun sought Tuesday a P10-billion increase in the Department of Education’s 2021 allocation for the printing and reproduction of self-learning materials (SLMs).

Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence “Law” Fortun

He made the proposal after DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla relayed to the House Committee on Appropriations that only P15 billion has been allocated for the printing and reproduction of learning modules under their 2021 budget, and additional P5 billion from the unprogrammed fund. 

“Part of the preparedness would be the availability of modules and the ready access of our students to these modules. What is worrisome, however, on the ground, the reality is that teachers are going out of their way to solicit help for the printing and reproduction of modules. This is quite alarming because I suppose our teachers cannot proceed with their instruction unless these modules are made available and accessible to our students,” Fortun said during the House panel's budget deliberations. 

He asked the DepEd about the ideal budgetary requirement for the printing of modules to cover more than 22 million K to 12 learners, and its actual appropriations in the 2021 budget.

“In terms of funding requirement for 2021 on the self learning modules, this was estimated at about P35 billion if it is to be 1:1. And we were given under NEP 2021 in the amount of P15 billion and additional 5 billion from the unprogrammed fund, so P15 billion po yung nasa assured namin na Deped NEP 2021 and additional P5 billion under the unprogrammed fund,” Sevilla said.

“So we are readjusting our plan so that we can have a production of soft learning materials with this amount which was given to us,” she said.

Fortun said the disparity is "quite enormous", and the House should step in to address such deficiency.

Sevilla said they have identified three funding sources for such initiative: national government fund, which is the GAA; the special education fund ffrom local government units; and the Brigada Eskwela.

Fortun then urged his colleagues to push for the inclusion of the P10 billion in the proposed P4.596-trillion trillion national budget for 2021.

Meanwhile, DepEd Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio told the panel that "about 59 percent of the learners will be provided with the printed self-learning modules.”

“Not all learners will be given the printed module,” he said, which alarmed Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro. 

"Not having a 1:1 module-learner ratio is problematic especially with the possibility of a transmission of the virus through the delivery and swapping of these modules,” she said. 

"This is why we need to allocate mode funds for the printing and distribution of modules so that our learners will not have to resort to the sharing of modules in this time of a pandemic,” she stressed. 

San Antonio recognized Castro’s concern, even as he noted that in some areas, "we can go as far as allowing four learners to use the modules.”

“If rotational use of modules will be resorted by our field units, we will have to make sure the proper disinfection of the learning resources will be made,” he said. 

Deputy Speaker and SAGIP partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta took a swipe at Sevilla for failing to provide the details on the number of SLMs that have to be produced by DepEd. 

"This kind of question is very basic. They are talking about a modality, a self learning method adopted for the pandemic circumstances. They said they made adjustments in order for DepEd to deliver distance learning at a magnitude never done before so I am asking how many SLMs do you intend to produce,” the House leader said. 

San Antonio said he will check his files, which irked Marcoleta.