Lacson Revives Probe of Error-Riddled Textbooks

No thanks to a haphazard “corrective” measure, the country’s public elementary and high school students are ending up victims of a flawed procurement program that yielded error-riddled textbooks, not once but twice. 

On this note, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson sought to revive a Senate investigation into the government’s purchase of error-riddled textbooks, which he said threatens to throw away another P4.23 billion in taxpayers’ money over the next two years.

“The Department of Education (DepEd) issued a 21-page guide to correct errors in the flawed textbooks and teachers’ manuals. But according to my information, there was only one for every classroom. With each classroom having up to 100 students, I do not see how the students can get the wrong lesson on the flawed textbooks right,” Lacson said.

Last June 30, the DepEd released a 21-page “Errata Para sa Sibika 1-3 at HeKaSi 4-5 Batayang Aklat at Manwal ng Guro (Errata Guide for Sibika and HeKaSi teachers’ guide)” to correct some 269 errors in 11 textbooks and teachers’ manuals. It was to be issued to 43,000 elementary schools nationwide.

Yet, Lacson said even the guide itself “failed to substantially correct the errors found in the said textbooks,” adding any correction should have been made before the textbooks were published in the first place.

Worse, he said such a “corrective measure” was sneaky because it aimed to give the impression that the Arroyo government through the DepEd had done something to remedy the errors contained in the textbooks. “Panloloko na ito (This is outright deception),” he said.

Lacson filed Wednesday Senate Resolution No. 53, directing the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture to pick up where a Senate investigation into the matter left off earlier this year.

“This cycle of producing substandard textbooks to the detriment of Filipino students needs to be stopped before it completely erodes our country’s educational system,” Lacson said in his resolution.

“It is imperative that effective sanctions, including but not limited to imposition of fines, blacklisting and permanent disqualification from succeeding biddings, be imposed upon errant publishers who have a track record of producing low-quality and error-riddled textbooks,” he added.

The Senate started looking into alleged irregularities in the government’s procurement program for school textbooks, where firms affiliated with the Vibal Publishing Group cornered more than three-fourths of multibillion-peso textbook contracts.

Lacson stressed it is urgent that the investigation be started soonest, as the Department of Education (DepEd) plans to spend some P4.23 billion in taxpayers’ money to buy some 70.6 million textbooks for the next two years.

He lamented that glaring errors in the textbooks torpedoed the objective of the government’s “Education for All” program, where it spent some P3.42 billion on textbooks in 2005 and 2006 with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

The government planned to publish 11.9 million textbooks under its “Education for All” program, while the World Bank financed the $200-million Second Social Expenditure Management Project (SEMP2), which aims to solve the shortage of textbooks in public schools.

Worse, he said a few “favored” publishing groups with interlocking sets of officers – some of them already disqualified locally but still allowed by the World Bank to bid – cornered 75.96 percent of P2.659 billion of P3.5-billion budget for textbooks-teachers’ manuals.

Lacson also noted that at a hearing on the matter during the 13th Congress, textbook-reform crusader Antonio Go already detailed the factual and conceptual errors he discovered in seven books published under the SEMP2 program.

“Mr. Go further added that around 50 percent of the published books were defective and riddled with factual, conceptual and language errors,” he said.