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Senators grill DepEd on new normal

Two months before the opening of School Year 2020-2021, less than half of all public school teachers have been trained on distance learning, the mode of education that will be used under the “new normal” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the hearing of the Senate education committee led by Senator Win Gatchalian, it was revealed that only 337,000 of the 800,000 public school teachers had been trained on distance learning by the Department of Education.

Quizzed by senators on the situation, Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said the training of teachers was continuing.

But the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Philippines slammed the department for its alleged “hypocrisy” in the requirements it set for employing the blended modes of learning without face-to-face classes in the private schools, which the group said the agency had yet to fulfill in its own backyard.

The group says the department requires private educational institutions to make sufficiently available in schools the gadgets and internet connections for the disposition of teachers’ duties. But the same gadgets and connections remain scant in many public schools in the urban areas, and especially so in the rural areas.

In July, San Antonio said they would be conducting training to cover the remaining 60 percent of the total population of public school teachers who were yet to be trained on distance learning. This was to be led by the National Educators Academy of the Philippines.

Senator Nancy Binay questioned Education officials if they had completed the mapping to identify places where online learning could be feasible.

The department said mapping was ongoing, and by next month its regional directors would determine the modality. The learning modules would be finished before the opening of classes in August.

Gatchalian warned that students would not be able to learn if the teachers were not prepared for the shift in teaching.

Education officials said there were still no laptops for the teachers since it was not clear where the budget for those would be coming from.

Senator Francis Tolentino said the preparation for the proper implementation of distance learning would take six to nine months.

The hearing tackled Tolentino’s Senate Bill 1460, which seeks to develop a national education policy framework for online or broadcast learning delivery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Rissa Hontiveros said the department should give laptops and internet allowances to public school teachers before the opening of classes on Aug. 24. Teachers should not be forced to spend for those in order to teach.

Senator Grace Poe said teachers deserved to get an internet allowance to save them from the extra expense.

Filing Senate Resolution 456, Poe urged the Executive department to grant such allowance to public elementary and secondary school teachers for the duration of the online classes.

Poe, the head of the Senate committee on public services, said the government should also “encourage and assist” private schools to provide the same assistance to their teachers.

She said the P3,500 one-time cash assistance proposed by the Department of Education, converted from the teachers’ chalk allowance, was not enough to sustain their connectivity needs throughout the period of online classes.

“It is high time the government provided additional allowances to teachers to upgrade their digital access and technological capacity and to ensure they are well-equipped to continually assure quality education to their students in this time of pandemic,” Poe said.

Topics: open , school year , public school teachers , coronavirus pandemic , "new normal"
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