Senator Joel Villanueva lamented on Wednesday, September 1, the P15.1 billion supposedly being requested by the Department of Education (DepEd) for producing self-learning modules in 2022.
Villanueva, vice chairman of the Senate basic education committee, noted that this is one of the biggest items in the agency’s P629.8-billion obligation budget under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) recently submitted to Congress.
“To compare, the budget for new classrooms is about P2.92 billion. For new chairs and desks, about P1.1 billion,” the senator cited.
“Even the construction budget DepEd is asking for next year – P7.9 billion – is half of the proposed outlay for what has become known as self-learning modules (SLM),” he added.
Villanueva described the proposal as “sariling sikap” as he stressed the government’s failure to invest in digital infrastructure that would have aided the DepEd’s blended learning program amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[It is] the penalty we are paying for our poor digital infrastructure which has made remote learning an ordeal for teachers, learners, and parents,” he said.
The P15.billion, he added, is also “the price we have to pay for failing to rein in the pandemic, which, in turn, has prevented the resumption of face-to-face classes.”
“But all of this pales in comparison to the damage done to millions of learners in terms of knowledge forfeited, which education experts describe as the so-called ‘COVID slide,’ a national tragedy so great that it is impossible to quantify,” Villanueva pointed out.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) previously observed that the Philippines has the longest closure of schools among countries in the Asia-Pacific region since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease.
The prolonged closure of schools and loss of learning, it warned, could have a long-term effect on children.
President Duterte has repeatedly rejected the resumption of face-to-face classes, even in low-risk areas of the country.
With its funding request, Villanueva urged the DepEd to ensure that errors will be prevented in producing the self-learning modules.
He said that under the special provisions of the DepEd budget, the agency’s “Error Watch Initiative” shall proactively review learning modules and rectify, withdraw or replace those which contain errors.
The DepEd has faced criticisms about its modules for various issues, from spelling and grammatical lapses, factual errors, to discrimination.