Under the distance learning system, parents have an active role in guiding their children through modular lessons. But this is a problem for students who do not have anyone to facilitate learning at home.
One potential solution was for the Department of Education (DepEd) to hire para-teachers or learning aides, but unfortunately, DepEd does not have the budget for them.
During House deliberations on the DepEd's proposed 2021 budget on Tuesday, September 15, Education Undersecretary Anne Sevilla said that no funding was allocated for hiring para-teachers, as the agency only has a budget for hiring regular teaching positions.
"So the question on whether there is a 2021 budget line item for hiring [para-teachers], there is none," Sevilla said.
Meanwhile, Education Undersecretary Jesus Mateo said that if schools wanted to hire para-teachers, they could use their funds for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses and their Special Education Fund (SEF) instead.
Mateo also said that guidelines for hiring para-teachers are now being finalized.
The SEF, which comes from tax collected by the local government unit (LGU), funds the supplementary annual budgetary needs for the operation and maintenance of public schools within the province, city, or municipality.
But lawmakers also raised concerns over the SEF as some LGUs are "not similarly situated." There are provinces and cities that have a bigger SEF than others, while some don't even have a SEF to begin with.
Distance learning will be challenging for a number of public basic education students whose parents are out working, leaving them at home with no one to help them study.
Aside from this, there are also parents who are not capable of guiding their children at home due to lack of knowledge.
"There are parents who are 'no-read, no-write.' They are sending their children to school because they don’t want their children to be like them. Who would teach the students now at home? This kind of modular learning is really difficult. Not all parents are capable of guiding their children," said Aika*, a public elementary school teacher from Laguna, in a previous interview with Rappler. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education 'only for those who can afford')
During the House deliberations, lawmakers also sought an additional P10 billion for the proposed 2021 budget to fund DepEd's printing of self-learning modules (SLMs). (READ: Additional P10B in 2021 budget sought for printing of DepEd's learning modules)
The government has allocated P606.5 billion of its proposed P4.5-trillion budget for 2021 for DepEd. (READ: Proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 budget goes to Congress)
While the education sector is set to receive the lion's share of funds, several groups believe the amount is still not enough to cover the needs of the education sector under an overhauled education system. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Why you should be alarmed by Duterte’s 2021 budget)
As of Tuesday, a total of 22,321,903 public school students have signed up for the school opening on October 5. – Rappler.com