In a speech before book development stakeholders during the recently concluded Manila International Book Fair, NBDB Chairman Dennis T. Gonzalez reiterated his proposal for the Department of Education to decentralize the evaluation of textbooks for DepEd procurement, in order to raise the effectiveness of the evaluation process and minimize the entry of substandard books in public schools.

At present, the responsibility of ensuring quality textbook procurement for public schools lies solely with the Instructional Materials Council Secretariat (IMCS), a DepEd unit whose “dysfunctional” character has been described in detail in the 2009 UP-National College of Public Administration and Governance book, “Corruption and Implementation,” by Dr. Vicente Chua Reyes Jr., currently Asst. Professor at the National Institute of Education in Singapore.

In his speech, Gonzalez pointed to the “monopoly power” of the IMCS and its inadequate accountability, as the Instructional Materials Council, to which the IMCS is the Secretariat, has not been fully functional in terms of complete membership and regular meetings. In a recent letter to Sec. Armin Luistro, Gonzalez suggested the full reconstitution of the Council with members that include recognized textbook specialists from the private school system and a competent representative from a relevant civil society group.

Gonzalez has also proposed the decentralization of DepEd textbook evaluation through institutional arrangements with “Centers of Excellence” in public and private educational institutions (such as the UP National Institute of Science and Mathematics Education, the Ateneo de Manila Department of English, the UST Department of Science, the DLSU Department of Filipino) which are competent to do the evaluation.

“In this scheme I propose, the Instructional Materials Council would consider for DepEd procurement only those series of textbooks that obtained seals of approval from the accredited Centers of Excellence, and the names of the approving institutions should be prominently displayed on the textbooks themselves. The risk of ruining their reputations would push the institutions and centers to make sure that they do a good job. In this scheme, the competition in the public school textbook procurement system among publishers whose textbooks have seals of approval will be on the basis of price and some technical requirements and no longer on quality,” Gonzalez said.

Chairman Gonzalez added that his proposal to decentralize DepEd textbook evaluation is in line with the National Book Policy which states, specifically under Implementing Policy 5.5: “DepEd shall initiate measures to decentralize evaluation of textbooks, references and other instructional materials particularly those which are locally developed and/or intended for specific geographic areas or cultural communities.”

Dr. Gonzalez was one of the guest speakers during the opening program of the 32nd Manila International Book Fair at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia and the keynote speaker during the General Assembly of the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society (FILCOLS) which was held last 16 September 2011 at the same event.