Senator Ralph Recto (PRIB Photo by Albert Calvelo)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto suggested that instead of handing out transistor radios for public school learners this coming school year, the government should instead implement a “1 book to 1 student” ratio in public schools, saying that a complete set of textbooks at home is needed by children to cope with online classes.

Recto made the suggestion in reaction to President Duterte’s plan to provide transistor radios to students  in far-flung areas who do not have the devices like a television or cellphone that are supposed to aid their schooling or those living in areas with very poor internet connectivity.

“Broadband learning does not cancel the need for books. On the contrary– it makes it imperative. Hindi ibig sabihin na dahil via internet na, wala nang instructional materials,” Recto said.

“Kung wala na ngang laptop, wala pang signal, tapos wala pang libro, eh paano na ang mga bata?” Recto said.

Recto advised the Department of Education to focus more on providing books for students instead of working to address internet speed  which “is something beyond the powers of DepEd to cure.”

He added that if the President is mulling the purchasing of transistor radios, the DepEd should instead focus on producing more books which costs less than buying new transistor radios.

During his close to midnight televised address on Monday, June 15, Duterte reiterated that he will not allow face-to-face classes when school year 2020-2021 resumes on August 24 until a vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available.

“Baka kung magtagal ito talaga, sayang ang panahon, we might buy the radio at 300. Maibigay sa lahat ng barangay, para yung mga mahirap may communication sila sa teacher nila,” Duterte said.

It was unclear if the “300” Duterte mentioned is the price of each transistor radio.

Recto admitted that the slashing of the education department’s budget in procuring textbooks and the long lockdown made it hard for students to return their books and disrupted the printing of new books based from previous year’s procurement orders would be a major hindrance to his proposal.

This year’s budget for textbooks is P963 million, half of last year’s P1.8 billion, Recto said. “In 2015, it was P3.46 billion, P4.1 billion in 2016, P3 billion in 2017, P2.9 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,” he added.

“Yung budget ng DepEd, kinaltasan ng halos P8 billion at inialay sa laban sa Covid. 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,” Recto said.

Recto also called for more funds to public schools whose teachers are now printing on their own new modules for instruction.  (Rommel F. Lopez)