By Macon Araneta

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto emphasized that textbooks are more urgent than transistor radios in blended learning. 

He  called for a “1 book to 1 student” ratio in public schools, saying a complete set of textbooks at home is needed by children to keep up with on-line classes. 

“Broadband learning does not cancel the need for books. On the contrary — it makes it imperative. It does not mean that because its via internet,  (there’s) no need for instructional materials,” Recto said.

“If there’s no laptop, no signal and then no books, how would the children be?” he added. 

While the  “internet speed is something beyond the powers of DepEd to cure,” he said, “enough books is, however, something DepEd can provide, if given the resources.” 

“If we can print money, why can’t we print books? The ones public school students are using cost as little as PHP50. Kung may perang pang transistor radios, dapat mayroon ding pang libro,” Recto said.

However, the Senator is concerned that the “national inventory of books” in public schools is not enough to meet the desired 1:1 book-to-learner ratio. 

“First, if classes are suspended, students will find it difficult to return the books. Classes, retrieval rate will be low,” Recto said.

Second, he said the printing of millions of new books, out of this year’s and previous years’ appropriations, may have been disrupted by the recent three-month long lockdown.

Recto tagged as another culprit “the steady decline in Malacañang-requested appropriations for textbooks and instructional materials.” 

This year’s budget for textbooks is PHP963 million, half of last year’s PHP1.8 billion, Recto said. “In 2015, it was PHP3.46 billion, PHP4.1 billion in 2016, PHP3 billion in 2017, PHP2.9 billion in 2018.”

“So, from 81 million books delivered since 2016, the target volume to be distributed out of this year’s budget are 10.3 million textbooks and instructional materials,” Recto said. 

“The DepEd budget was cut by almost PHP8 billion. It was diverted in the fight against Covid,” he said.

Eh di ibalik yung parte nito para sa libro at mga programang kailangan ng 27.2 million na kabataang Pilipino para sa‘blended education’ nila,” he added.

The Senator also called for more funds for schools where teachers are now printing on their own new modules for instruction under the new normal.