For 11 years, only grades 5 and 6 get complete textbooks — DepEd data

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
For 11 years, only grades 5 and 6 get complete textbooks � DepEd data
Students of Marikina Elementary School in Marikina City reunite with their parents after attending a two-hour class orientation before the formal school opening on Aug. 23, 2023.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Not enough textbooks have been getting to the hands of students since 2012 despite yearly commitments to provide enough materials for learners, data from the Department of Education shows. 

DepEd has only been able to procure and deliver 27 textbook titles in a span of 11 years, with only students in Grades 5 and 6 getting complete textbooks in all subjects, Sen. Pia Cayetano pointed out during the Department of Education's budget briefing at the Senate this week.

Since 2012, no textbooks have been making their way to public school students in Kinder, Grades 1, 2, 3 and 7, said the chairperson of the Senate finance committee in charge of health and education.

Cayetano cited data from the DepEd Bureau of Learning Resources as analyzed by the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM II), the country’s sole congressional body tasked with reviewing the education system.

According to a press release from EDCOM II, schools still lack access to textbooks and other learning resources due to snags hit in the procurement and delivery of learning materials.

What causes the delay in textbook deliveries? 

EDCOM II said: “One major cause of delay is the previous practice of procuring manuscripts separately from printing and delivery services.”

“This is further exacerbated by the high cost of materials; suppliers' failure to meet the deadline in printing and delivery; and the limited number of bidders or publishers who are participating in the bidding process,” EDCOM II added.

Philstar.com has reached out to DepEd for comment and will update this story with their response.

In a June hearing with EDCOM II officials, DepEd Bureau of Learning Resources Director Ariz Cawilan enumerated the challenges in the process of procuring and delivering schoolbooks on time:

  • The need for a more efficient procurement process for the production and delivery of textbooks
  • Failure of bidding due to limited qualified suppliers, failure to meet technical requirements, and low participation of prospective bidders
  • Late deliveries due to uncontrollable events and geographical challenges making deliveries difficult

The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged DepEd in 2022 for non-delivery and weak monitoring of DepEd offices' compliance with textbook storage rules. 

In particular, state auditors found that the non-delivery of textbooks to schools in Region 5 amounted to a loss of about P36 million. COA found that the textbooks were "stored in a warehouse and remained undelivered for at least four months to one year.”

No single textbook was also procured by DepEd in 2021, COA's audit report for that year stated, due to delays in procurement activities.

'Just 6 months'

Government rules require the procurement process for textbooks for public school students to be done in just 6 months, but in practice, it takes about three to five years, National Book Development Board OIC Division Chief Kevin Ansel Dy told EDCOM II officials during a hearing in June.

“Manuscript revision takes the longest portion of the process,” Dy said.

Dy explained that the revision process tends to be prolonged due to “conflicting comments” and the struggle for Bureau of Curriculum and Development personnel to give their full attention to each evaluation.

Digitalization, pre-selection of textbooks

Cayetano said during the Senate hearing that DepEd should look into the digitalization of textbooks given the difficulties in delivering textbooks on time for students to use during the school year.

“It is a sustainable model because number one, we won’t be splurging on paper; number two, errors should be easier to change digitally and corrections and editing should be much faster,” Cayetano said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“There’s no physical way, even if you double your budget, you won’t be able to fast-track textbooks,” Cayetano said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also floated the idea of pre-selecting textbooks, which is the practice in private schools.

For 2024, DepEd stands to get P12 billion for textbooks and other instructional materials. This amounts to the procurement and delivery of 71,407,893 textbooks and instructional / learning materials.

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte appointed an undersecretary focusing solely on procurement in January in an effort to improve transparency and accountability in the purchase of education materials.

"Our assessment of the Department’s procurement practices showed cracks that, if left unresolved, will harm our vision to providing our learners with quality basic education," Duterte said in DepEd's first Basic Education Report in January.

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