About three million students from grades K to 12 have yet to enroll for the upcoming academic year, the Department of Education (DepEd) said Monday, a week before the start of classes in public schools.
Education Undersecretary Jesus Mateo said the department was still trying to convince the parents of unenrolled students to register their children.
Meanwhile, DepEd is crafting the policy and guidelines on hiring para-teachers or learning support aides who will assist teachers and students in blended learning.
In the same press conference, Mateo said the teaching assistants will work together with the educators in providing learning through various modalities.
But instead of hiring additional 10,000 teachers next year, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian called on DepEd to prioritize filling its remaining vacant positions and target displaced private school teachers.
Gatchalian said DepEd should hasten its hiring to fill the remaining 34,000 unfilled positions.
The department reported earlier this month that the suspension of operations of 865 private schools across the country this year, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, affects more than 4,000 teachers.
“If we will base it on the enrollment figure last year, we still have 2 million or 3 million who have yet to enroll. What we're doing is we continue our campaign with the help of local government units and the media to convince parents to enroll their children,” Mateo said in a virtual briefing.
As for the teacher aides, the salary for para-teachers ranges from P6,000 to P11,000 per month, according to Mateo.
Applicants should be 21 to 59 years old and at least a senior high school graduate or with two years of study in college to be qualified, even without training and experience, he added.
Preferably, Mateo said the applicants reside within the same community as teachers and students.
“What’s the rationale behind this hiring? Firstly, to support teachers and parents in the delivery of basic education services to the learner in this time of new normal,” he said.
Mateo said the learning support aides will guide students and households, render assistance to teachers, as well as monitor and track the progress of learners.
During the Senate hearing on the proposed 2021 budget of DepEd and its attached agencies also on Monday, Mateo reported that 34,000 of more than 55,000 unfilled positions are teaching positions, majority of which are Teachers I, II, and III.
DepEd’s proposed 2021 budget allocates P1.2 billion for the hiring of 10,000 teachers.
Gatchalian said the Special Education (SPED) program could utilize the fund, noting that the P300 million-fund allocated for SPED in 2020 was no longer included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2021.
This amount, however, was realigned to fund the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Republic Act 11469). The SPED program supports approximately 439,000 learners.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, added that hiring 10,000 additional teachers on top of the 34,000 vacant teaching positions will only increase the unutilized portions of the DepEd budget.
Latest DepEd data showed that 24.6 million learners have registered for School Year 2020 to 2021, which will see the implementation of distance learning in schools due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the figure, 22.46 million learners are in public schools, while 2.14 million in private schools. More than 27 million students were enrolled last year.
This year also saw over 398,000 private school students transfer to public schools, which DepEd officials have attributed to the pandemic's effects on the income of Filipinos.
Mateo said the current enrollment figure was a testament that millions of parents are convinced with the "menu of options" that the DepEd was offering to ensure the continuity of learning during the pandemic.
The DepEd earlier said it would accept late enrollees until November as long as students could attend 80 percent of the total class days for the academic year.
In August, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan told senators that the department would prepare interventions for those who would not enroll this year.
Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio has said those who would not enroll this year can register in the Alternative Learning System, which caters to those who cannot enter the formal education system.