MANILA, Philippines — Almost 10 million learners have registered during the first eight days of this year’s school enrollment as the Department of Education (DepEd) starts to roll out multiple learning modalities amid the country’s fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic.
During a public hearing at the Senate committee on basic education chaired by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said 961,396 students have registered nationwide as of yesterday both for public and private schools.
This number, she added, is 36.26 percent of the projected enrollment for 2020. Region 4A (Southern Tagalog) has the highest number of enrollees, followed by Region 3 (Central Luzon) and the NCR (National Capital Region).
The DepEd is targeting 28 million by the time registration ends on June 30. Last school year, there were more than 27 million students enrolled from kindergarten to Grade 12.
Briones clarified that the lessons will be given to students through various methods that include printed or digital modules either delivered to the homes of students or picked up by their parents at designated places; online learning resources such as the DepEd Commons, and television or radio-based instruction.
“Safe learning opportunities shall be available to our children. We can still provide learning opportunities to our students, without requiring them to come to school, through blended/distance learning. The blended/distance learning approach is consistent with President Duterte’s preference that we do not send our children to school until it is safe to do so,” she added.
She noted that the first week of the opening of schools, set on Aug. 24, will be “devoted to psychosocial preparations not only for learners but also for our teachers because we are now shifting strategies in terms of the basic strategy for learning.”
Briones assured Gatchalian that DepEd is on the road of readiness and thanked the legislators for their interest in helping the education sector amid the pandemic. This readiness could not be 100 percent though as she noted that issues on education continue to evolve.
Sen. Francis Tolentino meanwhile urged DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education to link with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to use existing platforms.
“For instance, UNICEF has a learning passport supported by Microsoft to help the children of Ukraine, UNESCO has an institute for information technology and education to combat COVID-19 while Google has its Classroom that teachers can use to deliver learning materials to students,” Tolentino said.
Joseph Noel Estrada, managing director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (CoCoPEA), said 35 percent of the students had no access to a stable internet while another 30 percent had no access to educational materials both online and offline. At least two percent are struggling to access online learning.
As for the teachers, Estrada said 60 percent are skeptical of conducting the online process. He also said that 60 percent of schools are not able to provide training for teachers to conduct online classes.
Briones urged generous individuals and groups—who donate the usual backpacks, bags, ball pens, pencils and notebooks during school openings—to consider giving gadgets to students who may not be able to afford one.
“While studies showed there were 175 million cellphone units in the country with a population of 100 million, that does not mean every child mean has a cellphone in a particular area,” she noted.
The DepEd, she added, is committed to providing teachers with laptops they could use when schools open. According to previous estimates, this would cost P23 billion.
She is also not in favor of dubbing Sesame Street in Filipino “because we have a lot of stories that DepEd can utilize.” – Janvic Mateo
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