Wholistic education requires not only teachers but also teaching tools.
The process of imparting knowledge to young minds is made more effective when mentors are equipped with the necessary teaching materials, aids, and related devices.
This is because the teaching process entails not only mental cultivation but also hands-on experience and experimentation.
Thus, we support the initiative of a very discerning senior lawmaker in pursuit of more classroom infrastructure support for students.
Public schools do not only lack Science and Math teachers, they also lack Science and Math equipment as the Department of Education (DepEd) "scored back-to-back failures" in buying instructional materials for these subjects, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said.
Recto revealed that not a single piece of Science and Math equipment was procured by DepEd for two years in a row, "depriving millions of schoolchildren," despite have been given funds to make the purchase.
Recto described the fiasco as "an unmitigated disaster and representative of DepEd's low absorption of funds" which "I hope will be corrected soon enough by the current DepEd leadership."
The lawmaker said DepEd was given P2.56 billion in 2014 to buy 49,623 packages of Science and Math equipment for distribution to 38,622 schools.
The following year, it was allocated P4 billion for 33,070 more packages to be issued to the same number of schools.
"But 2015 ended with DepEd failing to buy a single piece. It failed to spend a single centavo," he said. "Ang grade nila ay hindi lang 'incomplete' kundi 'zero'. Ang naperwisyo dito ay mga batang dapat makinabang sa mga kagamitan."
Recto said the "same ineptitude was evident" in the purchase of computers, with DepEd failing to buy a total of 43,544 "computer packages" worth P7.46 billion in 2014 and 2015.
The agency had a budget of P4 billion in 2014 for 16,868 computer packages but only managed to buy half, Recto said.
For 2015, it was given P8.53 billion for 35,423 packages but failed to acquire any. "Zero ulit. Kahit isang mouse, hindi nakabili. Ni isang kurdon wala," he lamented.
"The agency may have a slew of reasons for its inability to buy these needed equipment. Any excuse, like failure in bidding, may be valid for one year. But for two straight years? That's unpardonable," Recto said.
Recto's observation is reflected in the Commission on Audit (COA) report on DepEd for 2015, which reprimanded the agency for failing to use the allocated P7.46 billion for "ICT packages" and P4.79 billion budgeted for Science and Math equipment.
Said amounts are part of the P43 billion "unutilized allotment" of the DepEd for 2015. The unspent amount represented 12 percent of the P351.1 billion consolidated allotment of the agency last year, according to CoA.
Recto said delays in the acquisition of school computers and equipment "are but a tip of the iceberg of its procurement problems."
"The problem cuts across-the-board, from textbooks to classrooms, to teacher hiring," he said.
As Congress also appropriated billions for computers and Science and Math materials for this year, Recto expressed hope that the two-year delivery backlog be erased, "otherwise the pileup will only grow bigger."
"We need to shore up our science equipment inventory, because in the global ranking of the quality of Science and Math education, we placed 67th out of 140 countries," the senator said.