Senator Win Gatchalian said on Monday that the coming year would be challenging for the stakeholders of the education sector after the supposed dry run for physical classes has been hampered by the emergence of a new coronavirus variant.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, said in a statement that he understands President Rodrigo Duterte's reason for the "sudden cancellation" but he emphasized that the state should ensure that the prolonged absence of physical classes would not compromise the learners' access to education.
"Government has to use every arsenal it has to make sure that our learners will not regress, or worse, drop out of school completely," he said.
"We have equipped DepEd with COVID-mitigating items in the 2021 budget. They should implement those items as soon as possible," he added.
The President earlier this month approved the recommendation of the Department of Education to hold a dry run of face-to-face classes in January for low-risk areas in the country, several weeks after the school year opened on October 5 without physical classes.
But the new threat of a COVID-19 virus variant from the United Kingdom forced the President to recall the order.
The DOH has said that it has yet to see the new coronavirus variant in the Philippines but Singapore had already confirmed its first case.
Meanwhile, the number of students who participated in distance learning has gone down, according to a teachers' group last Monday.
This is a consequence of the government not conducting a "dry run" of the learning method, said Benjo Basas, national chairperson of Teachers' Dignity Coalition.
"Nakikita po namin na bumababa ang bilang ng mga bata dun sa participation both in modular and online mode. Kung dati, out of 40 na estudyante, may umaattend pa na hanggang 30 ang maximum, ngayon bumaba na po talaga, di na po yan nangangalahati (We can see the number of students participating in both modular and online mode is declining. Before, some 30 students out of 40 attend their classes, now it has really gone down, not even half attend.),” he said in a television interview on.
"Yung sumasagot sa modules lumiliit na rin…At least nagpapasa pa pero yung iba di na talaga nagpapasa. Kung nagpapasa man ay napaka-limited na nung sagot dun sa modules (The number of those who answer their modules is also shrinking. At least some still submit their modules, others do not at all. Those who submit have limited answers.),” he said.
The group also welcomed government's decision to cancel limited in-person classes, which were supposed to be pilot-tested in January.
"Ito ay dry run lamang supposedly pero nalalagay pa rin sa panganib ang ating teachers at mag-aaral (This is only a dry run supposedly but it still endangers our teachers and students.),” Basas said.