Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday estimated that the Philippines' education sector needs over P30 billion more in funds to print the self-learning modules to be used by millions of learners for the upcoming school year.
In a statement, the senator said he came out with the amount based on a projection that around 17 million students in basic education would use this platform for distance learning.
He estimated that each student would use 20-page modules for eight subjects every week for 34 weeks, and about 10 reams of bond paper would be used to cover each learner's modules for the entire year.
"My low-end estimate is about 93.6 billion pages. And that’s about 1,500 times the 61 million ballots we printed during the last elections. That’s enough paper to gift-wrap all the classrooms in the land," Recto said.
At a printing cost of P1 per page, he said the amount for production of self-learning modules would reach at least P93.6 billion this school year.
But the Department of Education (DepEd) only has a third of that amount to spend, he pointed out.
Around P30 billion to P35 billion more would be needed "with other fund realignments, donations, grants from local governments, bulk printing already factored in," Recto said.
He underscored that some teachers had been left with no choice but to organize donation drives in order to print the needed modules.
To solve the funding gap, Recto said the government has a "math homework" to do, which is to get the total ink and paper requirements across the country.
"Walang problema 'yung mga lungsod na bilyun-bilyon ang pera, who have money to spare and have a bigger Special Education Fund drawn from real property tax collections. Pero paano ang mga bayang kulang sa pondo? 'Yung taga-barrio na luluwas pa para kunin ang mga modules?" he asked.
On the other hand, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said the government has enough budget to fund the printing of learning modules to be used by students for School Year 2020-2021.
As of August 12, the DepEd said almost four out of 10 schools division offices in the Philippines have completed printing more than 50% of the self-learning modules for the first quarter.
Gov't spending on education
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, said the government has to invest more on this sector amid the economic recession brought about by COVID-19.
He pointed out that while education got the lion's share of the national budget for 2020 at P692 billion, the amount still falls short of the United Nation's standard which is six percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The country's spending on education is only 3.4 percent of the GDP, Gatchalian said.
He underscored that the national budget for 2021 should allocate adequate funds for educational needs of the youth, including government subsidy programs such as the Senior High School Voucher Program and the Education Service Contracting.
"There’s always an economic growth that follows whenever we invest heavily in education. Pouring more money into education means a more educated future," Gatchalian said.
Over 23 million learners in the country enrolled for School Year 2020-2021. The DepEd initially targeted opening classes on August 24 but later on had it moved to October 5.
Nonetheless, private schools were allowed to start ahead of the said date as long as they use distance learning. —LDF, GMA News