DepEd urged to use P4 billion Bayanihan 2 fund to invest in technology for teachers

DepEd urged to use P4 billion Bayanihan 2 fund to invest in technology for teachers
Teachers at Jose Dela Peña National High School in Marikina City undergo webinar training on e-learning on July 21, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Win Gatchalian on Monday urged the Department of Education to use P4 billion of its funds to provide teachers with the necessary technology for distance learning. 

This amount was allocated to DepEd under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2 and is separate from the P606.5 billion allocated to the agency under the proposed 2021 national budget. 

"Under Bayanihan 2, the P4 billion allocation aims to assist DepEd in putting up information technology (IT) and digital infrastructure, the implementation of digital education, and the use of alternative learning modalities, including the printing and delivery of self-learning modules," Gatchalian recalled in a statement. 

During a Senate panel hearing on distance learning last on September 16, Education Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla told lawmakers that the agency is waiting on the Department of Budget and Management's (DBM) official confirmation on the availability of the fund before it crafts implementation guidelines. 

Due to the limited nature of the allocation, Sevilla said that the department also has to decide on whether the funds will primarily go to teachers' laptops, self-learning modules, or other items. 

"I would strongly suggest to allocate that [P4 billion] to our teachers, especially in technology that our teachers can use even after the COVID-19 pandemic," Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, said in response. 

"The Bayanihan 2 also contains other provisions to support the implementation of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP). These include the provision of loan assistance, subsidies, discounts and grants for the purchase of distance learning tools, including computers, laptops, tablets and other information and communications technology (ICT) devices," the senator added. 

He further explained that the law authorizes the use of a portion of the Special Education Fund (SEF) of local government units to fund alternative learning modalities, as well as digital education and digital infrastructure. 

In addition to this, the lawmaker said the SEF can be used to fund additional safety infrastructure in schools as well as other health supplies necessary for the maintenance minimum health standards in schools.

"Modernization in our education system, such as the wider use of technology for teaching and learning, is part of the resurgence of our schools from the damage caused by COVID-19. With the help of Bayanihan 2, we can intensify the modernization of our schools, we can reach more students, and we can continue education in a safe way," Gatchalian said in Filipino. 

Sevilla last Tuesday told the House or Representatives that DepEd originally requested a budget of P1.1 trillion for 2021 but DBM approved a budget about 45% short of that amount at P606.5 billion. 

During a virtual briefing, she called the agency's initial request a conservative amount, primarily meant to cover the provision of laptops to all public school teachers, as well as to fund the upholding of minimum health standards in basic education schools and offices. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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