DepEd’s Briones must explain textbook mess

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Twenty-four years ago, Antonio Calipjo Go, the academic supervisor of Marian School in Quezon City, began his “anti-sick book” advocacy by exposing both grammatical and substantial errors in textbooks distributed to public schools by the Department of Education (DepEd). The errors are not isolated instances. They were all over practically every textbook produced by the DepEd.

Most alarming was the patently wrong and misleading information contained in the textbooks which constitutes a disservice to Filipino students. The “sick books” are known for improperly spelled names of persons and places, and for passing off wrong information as gospel truth.

Go called the attention of the DepEd to the anomaly but officials in the department only paid lip service to his exposé. Higher authorities eventually promised to look into the matter but the errors remained in the textbooks subsequently published by the DepEd.

The uncaring attitude of the government back then forced Go to make it his crusade to invite public attention to the reckless and unconscionable waste of public funds on misleading textbooks, and to compel the DepEd to clean up the textbook mess.

Instead of correcting the infinite errors in the “sick books,” the DepEd offered all sorts of excuses, including a claim that the drafts reviewed by Go were not yet final.

Go also lamented that presidents beginning from Fidel Ramos up to Benigno Aquino III paid little attention to his exposés, and even ignored him in the hope that he will tire and stop his advocacy.

In the course of Go’s crusade, he disclosed that the DepEd spends millions in public funds to finance expensive workshops for textbook writing personnel, who end up summarily approving textbooks containing glaring errors.

Political analysts who share Go’s sentiments suspect that the textbook writing personnel of the DepEd pass on the responsibility of reviewing textbooks to incompetent subordinates and underlings who are not in a position to understand the contents of the textbooks, much less identify substantial errors in the printed materials.

Observers decry the continuing threat the error-filled DepEd textbooks pose to Filipino school children year after year. The printed page, after all, is permanent, and as long as these “sick books” remain in circulation, they will continue to endlessly convey the wrong information to school children in the guise of established facts.

The DepEd books not only threaten the quality of public literacy in the Philippines. They are a waste of public money. Adding to the problem is the complacency of DepEd secretaries including ex-secretary Armin Luistro, and the incumbent, Leonor Briones.

Just recently, the Commission on Audit (CoA) came out with a report that vindicates Go and his lonely crusade. In its 2018 audit report, the CoA scored the DepEd for losing P254 million in error-filled textbooks, and for its failure to distribute public school instructional materials worth P113 million. It was revealed that the instructional materials were left to waste away and to become fire hazards in five DepEd warehouses.

The lame excuse offered by the DepEd for the misuse of public funds was that it was reconciling its accounts, and that some of those accounts have not yet been liquidated for lack of proper documentation.

DepEd Secretary Briones has been in office for more than three years already. That is more than enough time for her to undo the anomalies which took place during her predecessor’s watch.

Apparently, Briones has not taken any serious step to address the textbook fiasco exposed by Go. For her inaction, Briones has allowed the “sick book” disservice to harm the Filipino youth and linger under her stewardship.

Briones should, therefore, come up with a satisfactory explanation, or resign outright for gross incompetence.

DepEd officials responsible for the textbook fiasco, particularly the teachers who were supposed to review the textbooks in the first place, should face criminal and administrative raps for plundering the future of the Filipino youth.

To prevent these error-filled textbooks from further spreading disinformation to the youth, President Rodrigo Duterte should order their immediate destruction in the same way the government disposes of impounded narcotics that destroy the social fabric of every Filipino family.

Like narcotics, Briones’ error-filled textbooks are dangerous.

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