Design by Christonette Nuevo

Story by Julienne Maxine Espinosa

What you need to know: 

  • Some public school students in San Juan Baño, Arayat, Pampanga are forced to share learning modules due to a shortage of copies.
  • Printed modules from the Schools Division Office of Pampanga were only able to cover three weeks of the first quarter. 
  • Public schools had to rely on donations to print the rest of the modules no longer provided by DepEd. 

Scant copies of self-learning modules from the Department of Education (DepEd) have made students from one of the biggest public schools in Arayat, Pampanga take turns using shared materials during a pandemic.

Just a few weeks into the school year, San Juan Baño Elementary School – one of the biggest schools offering basic education in Pampanga – and San Juan Baño High School already reported a shortage in printed copies of learning modules provided by the government. Due to budget constraints, school administrators had to adopt a shared learning scheme and rely on donations to reproduce more copies.

DepEd admitted last year that the 1:1 ideal ratio for students’ modules might not be sustained this year due to the measly P15 billion budget, hinting that students might have to just share modules by then.

While DepEd predicted this would happen by the third or fourth quarter of the year, the shortage was already prevalent as early as the second quarter.

As public schools in the country stretch their limited resources to continue learning despite the pandemic, students face greater struggle in accessing learning materials.

Unconducive system

When the Schools Division Office of Pampanga (SDO Pampanga) began distributing printed modules to San Juan Baño in October last year, public high school teacher Chopper Cubacub noticed that the modules did not cover at least half of the eight-week first quarter grading period. 

“Last quarter binigyan lang kami ng [division office] ng modules good for three weeks. The rest, kami na nag-print,” Cubacub said. 

“Minsan, ‘yung mga pictures, malabo,” he added, referring to the modules sent by the division office. 

It was the first and only distribution in San Juan Baño.

Since DepEd could not maintain the recommended 1:1 module-student ratio for the schools’ more than 2,000 students, teachers had to reproduce additional copies using the school’s budget.

During the second quarter, the public schools were asked to download the succeeding modules sent by the division office online. Teachers had trouble accessing the files.

“Quarterly, uploaded lahat ng self-learning modules sa [Google Drive]. Problem is incomplete ‘yung modules. May mga academic subjects na kulang, or walang laman ‘yung folder,” elementary teacher Grace Pegollo said.

Pegollo also said that resources such as ink and bond paper were insufficient to print copies of modules for their more than 1,500 elementary students taking eight subjects at a time. 

DepEd Undersecretary Anne Sevilla said in September that for the first quarter, schools can use their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) fund, which is originally spent for learning activities and necessities. 

“Meron namang school MOOE like ‘yung naka allot na office supply, so halos [lahat] ‘yun, nai-pupurchase sa bond paper,” San Juan Baño elementary head Violeta Cordova said.

However, it could not shoulder their every expense. “Hindi ko masasabing maliit, pero for me, parang hindi enough ‘yung [MOOE]. Kasi parang school na ang bahala sa gastos, bahalang magbudget, bahalang dumiskarte,” Pegollo said. 

The elementary school was allocated P1.25 million for their MOOE in 2020. This bought the school more than P500,000 worth of printed modules. 

But Cordova said that they still had to realign their budget for ceiling repairs to purchase more printing supplies. 

The case is worse for San Juan Baño High School, however, which has yet to be given an allocated MOOE since its establishment in 2018. 

“This made it difficult for us to reproduce modules, due to the need for money to spend for bond papers, inks, printers,” San Juan Baño High School head Wilhelmina Castro said.

To compensate, both schools relied on donations of printing supplies from private sectors, stakeholders and their local government unit.

“There are some parents naman na voluntarily nagbibigay ng bond paper. Kaya if you interview the parents, wala kaming sinisingil sa kanila,” Cordova said.

On average, maybe just half of a quarter’s modules can be reproduced by donations, that is why we still solicit continuously,” Castro said.

All 12 high school teachers share the use of four printers to reproduce 4,800 modules weekly. Despite donations, the school still fell 1,000 copies short for the last quarter.

Yet even with a risograph machine provided by the division office to the elementary school, some students still resorted to sharing modules. 

Tinig ng Plaridel tried to reach out to SDO Pampanga for comment, but they have yet to respond as of press time.

Compromises in learning

To ensure that each student will have access to modules, the schools had to make tough calls. They adopted a shared learning scheme where students who live close to each other were asked to take turns in using the modules.

“‘Yung sa one [module] is to two [students], nagmamapping kami. Sa magkakagrade level, sino ba yung nearest na classmate nila, sila ‘yung magpapalitan para hindi na malalayo pa,” Cordova said. 

The same goes with relatives of students belonging to the same grade level. They decide for their children which of them gets to use the module first.

The high school likewise came up with their own schedule of rotation for students to maximize the limited printed copies. 

“May ginawa kaming schedule per section kung anong subjects yung madidistribute sa kanila weekly,” Cubacub said. 

San Juan Baño High School’s second quarter schedule of module rotation for grade 8. /Photo by Chopper Cubacub

After the first group of students finish using  the module, their parents would return it to the school for other students waiting in line. 

“Advanced ng one week ‘yung nasa upper sections,” Pegollo said, referring to sections of students who are on the honor roll. “‘Yung lower sections, wait nila matapos ‘yung ibang sections bago nila magamit.”

Should students need their modules again for reviewing, teachers send them soft copies through a group chat in Facebook Messenger.

Under this set-up, students are only given a week to use the modules before returning them. But some students would return the modules late, which leads to the next group of students to crunch in extra work in a shorter period of time. 

“‘Yung good for two weeks na module, icocompress na lang na sagutan in a week,” Pegollo said.

All these attempts to remedy the situation boil down to one reason: insufficient funding. 

“Nagtitipid [kami]. Kasi iniisip pa din na baka makulangan sa 3rd and 4th quarter,” Pegollo added.

The conservation of printing supplies only made it harder for students to use the modules. 

“Nagtitipid po sila ng bond paper kaya lumiit po yung font, minsan po sobrang liit ang hirap basahin,” Grade 8 Joseph Alboleras said. “‘Pag ire-review ko po ‘yung lesson ang liit po ng font, ‘di ko po agad mahanap yung part na nabasa ko.”

Losing game

Cordova expressed worries that learning modules are not enough to assess learning. She is also unsure whether the students themselves answer their module.

We have to think of other ways also, kung saan makikita mo sa bata na ‘yung napag-aralan niya sa modules ay naisasabuhay niya,” she said.

For Pegollo, providing students with gadgets and internet connection would be better so they can hold synchronous classes online.

Moreover, Castro thinks books would save more time, money and effort compared to printed modules. 

“I think the national government must think this situation through further. We have books, and we can make the most out of this, if they thought it through,” she said. 

All these struggles make learning even more difficult for students like Alboleras.“[A]ng hirap po ‘pag self learning lang. Kapag po nahihirapan ako, naiisip ko po na ipagpabukas na lang hanggang sa umabot na po ng deadline,” he said. 

Grievances like this make teachers like Cordova and Pegollo believe that the current set-up can never replace face-to-face classes. 

“I do not say na this is the best solution, na this is the best na maipapalit natin sa face to face,” Cordova said.

“Self-learning modules are for fast learners lang. Ang daming naiiwan, hindi ma-gets ‘yung lesson,” Pegollo said.

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