The House of Representatives' Committee on Basic Education and Culture consolidated and approved during an online meeting, three measures seeking to address schools in all parts of the country.
Among the bills approved was House Bill 821, authored by Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. which mandates the establishment of a permanent clinic for every public and private school.
Also approved by the committee headed by Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo is HB 3228 filed by Manila Rep. John Marvin Nieto and HB 4232 by Bohol Rep. Kristine Alexei Tutor that provide for the setting up of a health and safety office in every public school.
Undersecretary for Basic Education Alain Pascua supported the bills, citing the need for clinics and school health and safety offices especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, not only to store equipment and emergency response kits but also to house the medical and nursing officers. Pascua said that out of the 47,013 public schools nationwide, only about 28 percent of them or 13,081 public schools have clinics.
The panel also created a technical working group (TWG) to consolidate several bills seeking to expand the use of the Special Education Fund and come up with a substitute bill. These are HB 205 filed by Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia III, HB 611 by Antipolo Rep. Resureccion Acop, HB 1431 by Makati Rep. Luis Campos, HB 1539 by Party-list Reps. Alfredo Garbin, Jr. and Elizaldy Co both of Ako-Bicol, HB 1758 by Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, HB 3864 by Davao Oriental Rep. Joel Mayo Almario, HB 4990 by Pangasinan Rep. Tyrone Agabas and HBs 6684 and 6685 by Romulo.
Villafuerte said the SEF was very useful in the locality because of the usual problems of rural areas such as classroom shortage and the funding for additional local teachers. He urged Congress to pass all these measures so that additional appropriations would improve and expand the SEF which is very helpful particularly to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th class provinces and municipalities.
Education Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla, in an online presentation, said the average utilization of SEF from 2017 to 2019 was at 62 percent, 56 percent and 45 percent. However, the DepEd has yet to complete all the reports of receipt and expenditures until the end of 2019, she said.
She also said that in the SEF budget for 2020, expenditures for the planned distance learning project – the Learning Continuity Plan, which prohibits face to face learning, was not included in the budget and several items should likewise be included especially during
the ‘new normal’ and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), in general, interposed no objection to the measures.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman said ‘the government has two months until August to finish its 'greatest
homework' of adjusting the school system to the pandemic reality, which is to prevent some 31 million students from physically attending classes in packed school."
Hataman urged the government to use the run up to the mid-August opening of classes to prepare both public and private schools for the "new education normal" and come up with a "blended and hybrid" plan for "students of all needs."
“To use a teaching term, they have two months to write the ‘new lesson plan’ of education in the time of coronavirus, and it is not an easy task. The government should now pool its brightest minds to try and solve this pandemic puzzle and allow for an efficient education system without exposing students, teachers and school employees to risks," Hataman, former governor of the now-defunct ARMM, expressed.
"At kung anuman ang maging plano for students, definitely dapat 'no vaccine, no physical classes' ang mangyari. Because for as long no vaccine against COVID-19 is available, our children will face mortal danger if they are told to physically return to school," he added.
"I am also an advocate of mass testing. Hanggang walang mass testing na nangyayari, lalong dapat nating hindi payagan na bumalik sa eskwelahan ang mga bata."
But the four-term Basilan lawmaker also said that allowing students to stay idle while the world waits on a vaccine is counter-productive, and should not be the case.
“Mass vaccination is the requisite for the universal return to schools. But, on the other hand, children will suffer if their schooling will stop. Hence, the need for alternative forms in which students will learn outside the traditional classroom setting," Hataman said.
wala pang bakuna. Paano kung abutin ito ng isang taon, isang taon din ba silang titigil? I don't agree with this. We have to do something to allow our kids to keep on learning. Kaya dapat ang DepEd ay mag-isip ng alternative forms of learning."
Hataman said that teaching now joins “testing, transport and trabaho” as the four urgent tasks of the country, as he lauded DepEd and CHED for preparing a guide to a “blended and hybrid” new kind of teaching, which combines online courses, mass media instruction, traditional in-school classes, and home visits, among other modalities.
He explained that the main challenge is how teachers will pick from the “cafeteria of learning options” and apply it to a learner based on the latter’s geographic location, home environment, socioeconomic status, and digital infrastructure, to cite just a few considerations.
"Another reason why home-based learning will be the new mode of education are the problems our children will likely face if they return to school in droves. Yung pagsakay ng jeep or tricycle papuntang school, malaking problema yan. Baka doon pa magkahawaan.
Kaya yung dating gawi ay hindi na maari," Hataman explained.
To allow DepEd to shift to the new normal, he pointed out that the “government should spare DepEd from budgetary cuts and just allow it to re-channel its funds to activities that will ensure that the education of our young will not be interrupted."
"The sheer size of the country’s school system call for massive infusion of resources. There are 61,916 public and private K-12 schools On the tertiary level, there are 242 state and local universities and colleges and 1,721 private institutions. As to enrollees, there are 27.8 million in basic education this school year, plus 2.9 million in tertiary education. Ganito karami ang apektado," Hataman surmised.
"DepEd's strategy should be blended and draws from several sources. Kung kailangang maghatid ng libro sa bahay ng mga bata, gawin. Kung kailangang gamitin ang mga local radio stations para sa lessons, i-tap natin sa mga lugar ng bundok o walang internet. Kaya importante na pag-isipan itong mabuti."