DEAR for Philippine education? Nice.
So, the Department of Education (DepEd), in its infinite wisdom, has finally decided to implement Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) in an attempt to stop the bleeding; after all, being in the company of the worst-performing nations in the recent PISA assessment does not inspire confidence in the Philippine education system.
On paper, it is supposed to be well-organized: Students have pre-reading, guided reading, and post-reading activities. Here is the catch though: For the longest time, the public school libraries have never been funded properly. Even when I was a student at one of the better ones in Zamboanga City way back between 2000-2006, there was very little reading material at all. No bestseller novels, no works written by Filipino authors, no international books, and no readers (the small books that are used for guided reading); in short, the library was an empty shell! It had good air conditioning though…
What does this mean? Teachers would most probably spend their own money for their respective classrooms. The problem is that having your own classroom library is not cheap, even if you are willing to spend 20% of your monthly salary for it! A Teacher 2, which is your typical teacher in public schools, should receive around P29,000; to make the math easy, this teacher would have P6,000 (~$107) to spend on books per month.
Now, to give everyone a rough idea of how a properly-equipped library for DEAR time should be It will consist of nearly 80% updated and brand-new material; it is inevitable to have second-hand material due to the fact that most proper schools already have their own books, so for the purposes of acquiring a new library, these materials will be considered as second-hand. Ideally, a teacher shouldn’t spend money here…
Here is a quick rundown for a combined class size of 100 students (Grades 1-6), based on actual, real-world experience (and doing it from the ground up):
- Adult books, specified: P2,000: What if there’s a surprise inspection in your classroom? There are parents who may want to read…also advanced students too!
- Adult books, non-specified: P2,000, buy them from places like Bookchigo. Chances are you could find good novels here. You can get around 10 kilograms of books…and if you spend some time visiting (Silang, Cavite), you can actually choose the books that you need for your classroom! Same audience as above.
- Specialized books, non-specified: P3,000: Teachers also need to read! Get them from Bookchigo or from Ruel’s Bookshop in Maginhawa. We care about their professional and personal development, right? This also applies for the students who want to learn technical skills, so their books are also in this category.
- Young adult books, specified: P5,000 (this should cover things like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc.) – This is for pleasure reading. If you want someone to read, make sure that they enjoy it! If the math holds, you should have at least six sets…
- Readers (Usborne 1/2/3): P3,000 – This is needed for guided and level-based reading.
- Advanced readers: P2,000 – You will always have good readers. This is for them.
- Intermediate Literary Readers (graphic novels of classics): P10,000. This will allow you to have engaging reading material for grades 4-6. Yes, expensive, but you don’t want them to be unprepared for high school, college, and beyond, right?
- Preschool readers: P5,000 (buy whatever you can). Want to stop the problem? Make them read at this age!
- Non-fiction readers: P5,000 (there are sets and there are also single books sold at book fairs that are around P200-P500 each, depending on the size and type) – it will turn out to be the most popular books in your library based on experience, so buy it.
- Philippine books for children: P2,000 – Depending on what you get, you will have around 10-20 books. Once again, needed and should be encouraged.
- Popular titles for everyone, both Filipino and foreign: P5,000. These are expensive though, especially if you buy them retail in places like Fully Booked. Tip: buy them during book fairs.
- Classic and modern bestsellers by Filipino authors: These exist. At P400 on average (mix of brand new and second hand), you can buy up to 15 books for a budget of P6,000.
- Variety titles and references: P6,000. Spirituality, comparative religion, fun facts, dictionaries, thesaurus, almanac, atlas, picture books for teachers with the standard stories, you name it.
One can argue that transportation can be arranged by the relevant office (DO, RO, LGU, etc.), so I am not going to include it here. The result? All of these come at a whopping P66,000 per classroom/library. It will take teachers an entire school year to fill up their classrooms with the necessary amount of books needed…and they need to spend their hard-earned money for other things too! Then there are the mandatory deductions, association fees, and loans…
Doing a quick headcount, the above list should allow for material that can be rotated for up to 150 students and 50 adults (good readers can count as an adult for this purpose). Ready for the bombshell? Given that there’s 28 million students in the public school system, the budget should be at least P9.24 billion. Let’s make it P9.5 billion just to make the math easier for the eyes and to account for other expenses, ahem, ahem.
However, take note that the above expense will fill up the shelves of an entire classroom library with titles that will cover ages 3-65. Also, one can fill up a classroom library for way less than that, especially if the student profile is extremely specific. Still, given the state of reading as it is in the Philippine education system, this is the amount that you need to spend at the very least to cover all levels of reading.
Also, you need to equip the actual libraries with more or less the same composition to make it standardized. Once again, multiply 66,000 by 44,931 (that’s the number of active public schools based on the Basic Education Report by DepEd in 2023), and that makes up for around P3 billion (P2,965,446,000 to be exact).
This excludes the library itself: It has to be designed too! While that’s a completely different expense (and given the fact that students will read inside their own classrooms), one also has to figure out its cost especially as schools will have to rebuild their libraries from the ground up to comply with DepEd’s memorandum. Whoops.
I can personally tell you that the entire enterprise will cost hundreds of thousands of pesos: Everyone needs chairs, tables, fans/air conditioning, and a well-lighted and designed area for reading. However, I understand that not everyone has that money budgeted (the finances work differently in big private and international schools, as the tuition fees of two to three students easily cover the cost of the library; while for smaller private schools, it may be a different story). Let’s be a bit stingy and give P100,000 for restoring libraries in each public school. Doing the math would give us around P4.5 billion (P4,493,100,000).
The total INITIAL COST for equipping all the public schools and their respective libraries to the bare minimum level is P7.5 billion. And since knowledge is updated, new bestsellers get released both in the Philippines and internationally, and equipment depreciates over time, well, one has to allocate a similar amount every ten years.
So, add the books for the classrooms and the libraries and you get a total ballpark budget of P17 billion. That may sound big, but here are the concrete beneficiaries of such an amount of money:
- Primary beneficiaries:
- Students (they learn and they develop a love for reading)
- Teachers (they read, have books – though DEAR might be tiring at times too!)
- Schools (and by extension, their administrators)
- The Philippine education system (more knowledge and learning, folks!)
- Secondary beneficiaries:
- Education material providers (they earn lots of money, hello!)
- Local publishers (they earn from possible contracts of books)
- The Philippine book industry (encourages more focus on this sector)
- Philippine literature (more books read = more appreciation)
- Tertiary beneficiaries:
- Parents (they save money and can buy other books/necessities for their child)
- Authors (they get royalties/set amount for books sold, encourages more Filipinos to reflect and write)
- NGOs and the private sector (more money for other educational initiatives)
- General public (more books in the market, more variety)
- The country (more educated individuals means more people who are ready to contribute to society and the betterment of the nation on average)
These are the things that need to be accounted for when it comes to having a DEAR program at a nationwide level. It needs money, scalability, and inclusion of stakeholders.
To put it into a quick summary:
- Budget: P17 billion needed based on simple math. The actual required budget may be higher, so it is a weakness on its own.
- Benefits: Lots of benefits as mentioned above. Also, really allows Filipino learners to catch up in learning competencies vis-a-vis their international counterparts
- Opportunities: For multiple sectors to earn/save and for the Philippine writing sector to flourish both in terms of quality and economy. By the way, better education means less economic costs down the line in terms of human quality.
- DEAR is a potential strength, however, it needs work, execution, and budget.
It should have been done a long time ago…however, with that being said, it is also clear that there is much to be desired in terms of execution (the fact that teachers and administrators alike have been surprised by this memorandum) reflects the current state of affairs. Bungled execution again, especially in DEAR for Philippine education? Nothing new, right? Time to fix it for once.