The postponement of K-12 classes should give the Department of Education (DepEd) “breathing space” to print self-learning modules (SLMs) for 21.5 million public school students, which Sen. Ralph Recto said “could be around 100 billion pages.”
“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.
Because printing and distributing these instructional materials has been farmed out to schools — forcing teachers to scrounge for every available printer in their locality — the cost is about P1 per page in most areas, or at least P93.6 billion this school year, Recto said.
But the bigger problem, he said, is that DepEd can only cobble together from its funds a third of this amount. He estimates that DepEd will be needing P30-P35 billion more, “with other fund realignments, donations, grants from local governments, bulk printing already factored in.”
Recto said the printing of learning modules has become a “cottage industry” in all towns. As a result, teachers “have not only become photocopiers, but also binders and distributors of these worksheets,” of which a new set is needed per subject per week, Recto said. DepEd designs the modules and are downloaded by teachers for printing weekly.
“The belief that online education will result in paperless learning is false for a variety of reasons, Recto said. “Hindi lahat may computer. Mabagal na Internet. Walang pambili ng load. And even when broadband is good, printed modules guide what is taught online. Ink on paper still rules.”
Recto’s 93.6 billion pages estimate is pegged at just 80 percent of DepEd enrollees needing these printed materials, with the rest getting these online. He explained that his count is based on 20 pages per subject a week, 8 subjects, for 34 weeks, to be used by 17.206 million public school students out of the 21.507 million enrolled. “Pero kung lahat gagamit, 117 billion pages ‘yan.”
“Even if you cut the number of pages per subject by half, to 10 pages, we will still be needing between 48 billion to 59 billion pages,” Recto said.
Whether the total cost is P48 billion, or P96 billion, or P117 billion, what funds DepEd has at the moment will not be enough, Recto warned. A DepEd Central Office circular said 30 percent of the school MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) can be diverted by schools for printing.
“But this will only be about P7.34 billion. Kahit ibigay pa ng buo ang unobligated school MOOE, mga P24.1 billion lang ‘yan. Kahit idagdag mo pa ‘yung napabalitang ni-release na P9 billion para sa modules, kulang pa rin,” he said.
He explained that based on DepEd’s formula, a class of 40 Grade 4 students will be entitled to about P18,750 in school-spent MOOE per year to cover upkeep of classroom, utilities.
“If you realign this amount to modules it will barely cover the needs of 4 students. One student will be needing about 10 reams of paper or 5,000 pages in one year. Kahit 50 centavos per page, kahit gawing 30 weeks instead of 40 weeks ang klase, kulang pa rin,” he said.
Recto said this is a funding gap which must be solved because “this decentralized and DIY type of printing” is taking a toll on teachers who are forced to organize donation drives for papers.
“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 said.
Recto said there should be a “paper count” so government will know the total ink and new paper requirements. “That’s our math homework,” he said.