K-12’s problem ‘not legal but logistical’

MANILA — K-12’s problem “is not legal, but logistical,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Tuesday as he urged the government to move on to address backlogs in the delivery of school facilities upon which the success of the said education reform hinges.

Recto made the statement following the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Republic Act 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, which expanded to 13 years the length of basic education in the country.

Recto said K-12 has not been hindered by legal challenges but by delays in the delivery of classrooms, equipment and the hiring of teachers whose numbers must be increased commensurate to the addition of two years of senior high school in the education curriculum.

He, however, praised the current Department of Education (DepEd) leadership, led by Secretary Leonor Briones, “for reducing the huge backlog they had inherited. They had to do a lot of catching up and are successful in this.”

Recto said K-12’s premise was that classrooms, teachers and equipment will already be in place to receive enrollees in the additional grade levels.

“That should have been the precondition. But the delivery of facilities was behind the curve. Grabe ang backlog na ilang taon ang kakailanganin para ma- wipe out ang mga ito (The backlog is that great that it would take several years before it is wiped out).”

As of July, this year, there were 81,630 classrooms, funded in previous years, which were still in various stages of construction. This is on top of the 47,000 units to be built this year.

Teacher recruitment was also hit by delays, Recto said. Of the 188,078 teacher items created from April 2016 to August 2018, only 114,019 teachers were hired from July 2016 to June 2018. This year the target is to hire 81,100 teachers.

Another key education facility which suffered a procurement setback was technical-vocational packages, Recto said. Some 4,600 “tech-voc” (technical-vocational) packages were targeted for delivery this year, “which, even if they will materialize, form a small part of a very big requirement,” he added.

“We should remember that K to 12’s promise was the graduation of employable high school graduates, many in the tech-voc field, but the absence of teachers and equipment betrayed this promise,” he said.

But even if the classroom backlog will be wiped out, Recto said DepEd will still need 64,668 classrooms to meet the standard student-to-classroom ratio.

To accommodate the “annual natural growth” in student enrolment, the DepEd must prepare 10,000 new rooms by school opening.

“Unfortunately, DepEd’s budget for next year provides for the construction of 4,110 classrooms only,” he said.

“To the credit of Secretary Briones and her team, their fund utilization and project completion rate are increasing,” Recto said. (Senate PR)