MANILA - Senate Committee on Basic Education chair Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday questioned the need for the Department of Education (DepEd) to allocate P1.2 billion for hiring more teachers, saying the agency has yet to fill all vacancies in public schools.
In 2020 alone, there are 34,000 teaching positions available in DepEd, Gatchalian said during the agency's budget hearin in the Senate.
"Why hire an additional 10,000 [teachers] to an amount of P1.2 billion, e may pondo na [para] du'n sa 34,000 [vacant positions]," the lawmaker said.
"It's still money not being used, not being maximized.
"It's better to fill it up first before we can hire again so the savings, we can use it for other purposes."
Gatchalian said the P1.2 billion proposed to hire more teachers could instead be used to fund the country's special education system, the budget of which was slashed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the DepEd will "seriously consider" Gatchalian's suggestions as the public education sector seeks to hire more teachers under the new normal.
"We are reducing the class sizes. We want to do away with teachers teaching multi-grades," Briones said.
"We're very happy that you are looking at these issues... I like the quality and level of the questions raised because they go beyond parochial [concerns]."
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the DepEd can absorb private school teachers who lost their jobs as students transfer to public schools due to the economic recession brought by the global pandemic.
A group earlier urged the DepEd to reduce the workload of educators, saying teachers are burnt out due to additional tasks they are expected to fulfill under the distance learning system.
Under the distance learning policy -- crafted to avoid spreading COVID-19 at congested schools -- teachers are expected to deliver lessons through online classes or broadcast media, as well as collect and distribute self-learning modules to and from students every week.
Educators in some areas were also tasked to go around their community to check on how parents and students are coping with the new learning system.