“Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Private schools have been doing pre-selection of books for years and if it’s been working for them, why can’t public schools do the same?”, EDCOM 2 Co-Chairperson Senator Sherwin Gatchalian implored the Department of Education and the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) yesterday in a meeting of the EDCOM 2 Standing Committee on Basic Education.
During the meeting, Ms. Doris Ferrer, PEAC Executive Director and EDCOM 2 Advisory Council member, highlighted the fact that textbooks and learning materials do not reach public schools on time due to the low quality of manuscripts submitted by suppliers, high cost of materials, suppliers’ failure to meet the deadline in printing and delivery, and limited participating bidders.
DepEd Bureau of Learning Resources Director Ariz Cawilan noted that several challenges hound the textbook development process in public schools, including:
- The need for a more efficient procurement process for the production and delivery strategy,
- Failure of bidding due to limited qualified suppliers, failure to meet technical requirements, and low participation of prospective bidders, and
- Late deliveries due to fortuitous events and uncontrollable market forces as to the availability of supply, as well as geographical challenges that make the delivery to the target recipients difficult.
He also said that as DepEd is set to begin the rollout of the revised K-10 curriculum in SY 2024-2025, a call for Grades 1, 4, and 7 textbooks will be issued. The Senior High School Curriculum is being reviewed.
NBDB: PH textbook policy needs competition
According to National Book Development Board OIC Division Chief Kevin Ansel Dy, the length of public textbook procurement on paper should take only 180 days, but in practice it takes 3-5 years.
“Manuscript revision takes the longest portion of the process – indicating that initially approved manuscripts are not really up to the standards set by DepEd, such that it goes through several layers of revisions to be acceptable”, Dy said. “The repeated and prolonged revision period also means more investment both for DepEd and bidding publishers in terms of time, human resources, and finances”.
Dy pointed out that the top reasons cited for the prolonged revision period are conflicting comments, and Bureau of Curriculum and Development (BCD) personnel [of DepEd] unable to give full attention to evaluation.
Dy also discussed Republic Act 8047, or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act, which sets the parameters for the textbook policy of the country as a liberalized, multiple-textbook policy.
“The liberalization of the textbook system opens the market to publishers in the private sector and encourages competition”, Dy said. “Where there is competition, customers are at a better position to receive quality products”.
“The reason why we don’t have good quality materials is because our policy does not encourage participation; it does not encourage competition. That is why we have low quality materials”, Dy emphasized.
Issues with procurement
Sen. Gatchalian posed the question of whether the government can just choose from a set of already-published books to alleviate the delays in manuscript revision. “Yung manuscript development,which is the basis for publishing, doon pa lang tayo nade-delay na eh. Can we just choose from a set of existing books already? Instead of developing the manuscript, why don’t we just evaluate existing books?” Sen. Gatchalian said.
Volume 5 of the GPPB Manual, or the Manual of Procedures for the Procurement of Manuscripts for Textbooks and Teacher’s Manuals, governs the procurement process for DepEd.
According to GPPB Procurement Management Officer Jaymar Bareng, “We have to strike a balance with competition – so we can lessen collusion, favoritism, and so that we can encourage other, smaller publishers in the bidding process”.
Bareng also pointed out that the GPPB is open to further studying Volume 5. “We encourage DepEd to submit data regarding problems related to procurement”.
“So prequalification is possible, depending on how DepEd can justify it?”, EDCOM 2 Co-Chair Rep. Roman Romulo asked, to which Mr. Bareng answered in the affirmative.
“The task of EDCOM is to have that aspiration to give one book per learner. We will not solve it if we do the same thing again: develop a manuscript, print it on our own, deliver it all the way to the last school in the country – after 10 years, that’s only when we’re going to see the real problem”, Sen. Gatchalian said. “If we’re just going to do [the original procurement process] again, even if hopefully we can shorten it to 180, 120 days, it will still be the same problem”.