Navigating the Complexities of Public School Textbook Procurement in the Philippines
The procurement of public school textbooks, a process that should ideally take six months, often extends to three to five years in practice. This delay is primarily due to the rigorous revisions these textbooks undergo to meet the education standards set by the Department of Education (DepEd). This article delves into the complexities of public school textbook procurement, the challenges faced, and potential solutions to streamline the process.
Kevin Ansel Dy, head of the Policy and Industry Research Division of the National Book Development Board (NBDB), explains that the manuscript revision takes up the most significant portion of the process. This indicates that initially approved manuscripts often fall short of the standards set by DepEd, necessitating several layers of revisions for acceptance. This prolonged revision period implies a greater investment for DepEd and bidding publishers in terms of time, human resources, and finances.
The NBDB plays a crucial role in this process, assisting DepEd in implementing rules and regulations to ensure the quality of books produced by the publishing industry. However, the textbook development process is not without its challenges. Ariz Cawilan, the DepEd’s Bureau of Learning Resources director, points out that one of the main issues is the failure in bidding due to limited qualified suppliers. Additionally, low participation among prospective bidders, some failing to meet technical requirements for procurement, and late deliveries due to uncontrollable market forces affecting the availability of supplies, further complicate the process.
The current policy does not encourage participation or competition, leading to low-quality materials, according to Dy. Under the implementing rules and regulations for Republic Act No. 8047, the printing and evaluation of textbooks for public elementary and secondary schools is decentralized, following a “multiple textbook policy.” This policy encourages the free flow of information and the deregulation of book publishing.
However, the prolonged revision period can also be attributed to conflicting comments among evaluators and the Bureau of Curriculum and Development’s inability, under DepEd, to give its full attention to evaluating textbooks. To fast-track the procurement process, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Edcom II co-chair, suggested a shift to preselection — or choosing from a set of already published books. This approach has been successfully implemented by private schools for years.
Jaymer Bareng, procurement management officer of the Government Procurement Policy Board, expressed openness to studying the Manual of Procedures for the Procurement of Manuscripts for Textbooks and Teacher’s Manuals, which serves as DepEd’s guide in the procurement process. He also emphasized the need to lessen collusion and favoritism to encourage smaller publishers to participate in the bidding process.