Villanueva: P15.1 B cost of DepEd modules is ‘our penalty for poor digital infra, failure to rein in pandemic’
The “sariling sikap” production of learning modules by public schools will cost at least P15.1 billion next year, one of the biggest items in the Department of Education’s proposed P629.8 billion obligation budget for 2022, Senator Joel Villanueva said.
“To compare, the budget for new classrooms is about P2.92 billion. For new chairs and desks, about P1.1 billion,” said Villanueva, vice chair of the Senate basic education committee.
What we will be spending for limited- or single-use modules which are printed by schools and picked up by parents or home-delivered to students “is far bigger than the budget for textbooks,” the senator pointed out.
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).
But Villanueva said actual spending for modules will exceed the P15.1-billion earmarked in the budget “as each school can augment this from their maintenance and other operating expenses fund.”
Villanueva described the P15.1 billion as “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.
“To compare, the budget for new classrooms is about P2.92 billion. For new chairs and desks, about P1.1 billion.”
“It is also the penalty we are paying for our poor digital infrastructure which has made remote learning an ordeal for teachers, learners, and parents,” he said.
“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,” he said.
He urged DepEd to comply with the single, most-important conditionality attached to the P15.1-billion SLM fund: the prevention of errors.
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.
Last school year, complaints on a number of DepEd modules grabbed the headlines for several reasons, including political correctness, factual errors, and even spelling and grammatical lapses.
By supplying printed materials to 22.75 million public school students last school year, DepEd had become the country’s “de facto biggest publishing house,” he said.