Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has warned that school children may end up as the “lost generation” if the return to normalcy would be “slowed down by vaccine shortage, and if we fail to adjust to and invest in new learning modes.”
“COVID’s greatest damage may have been in incarcerating millions of children and sending the educational system to the ICU,” said Recto.
Recto aired these concerns as he called on the Department of Education to test limited in-person classes in about 1,000 schools.
Meanwhile, a minority leader in the House of Representatives on Thursday frowned on the Department of Education’s decision to extend the school year for another month.
Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said an extension of the school year would be an extension of suffering for learners, teachers and parents.
The DepEd released Department Order 12 s.2021, moving the last class day of the school year from June 11 to July 10, 2021, while rescheduling the start of the 3rd grading period to March 22 to purportedly make way for a two-week remedial period to ‘bridge learning gaps, and one week for teachers’ trainings while students go on a break.
“Extending the school year without addressing the basic problems of the Duterte administration’s distance learning program would only extend the suffering and hardships of teachers, learners and their parents,” Castro said.
Recto said the results can be used “in designing how safely these can be done.”
The larger picture is that the pandemic has hit hard a school system with “severe pre-existing conditions,” he said.
“Even before the first coronavirus-carrying bat flew out of a Wuhan tree, our country had already been lagging behind in many international tests that measure learning,” he said
“And there are fears that this pandemic will allow us to bag the last spot uncontested,” Recto added.
If the pandemic would set us back two years in human resource development, he said the delay would have an impact on the future of this country.
While the vaccine remains the “greatest school pass,” he said even giving it to many would not lead to an exodus back to classes.
According to Recto, the virus was such a constantly mutating genius that even if Filipino children and teachers had been vaccinated, the return to standing-room-only schools would not be immediate
“Launching the trial classes under strict health measures is the way to mark on March 16 the anniversary of what is virtually the longest school vacation in history,” he said.
“They cannot be forever marooned in congested houses crammed with three generations of families, of which many double as a home for the sick, in communities which are bandwidth deprived.”
According to Castro, if the DepEd would really want to give learners academic ease, it would have provided adequate learning materials and prepared a curriculum appropriate for blended distance learning.
“There is no ‘break’ in the hardships that the failed blended distance learning brought to learners, teachers and parents until the Department of Education and the Duterte administration addressed the perennial problems of education that were highlighted and were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Castro.
Castro also thumbed down the DepEd for reportedly retracting its initial statement to impose a 2-week summer break in between AY 2020-2021 and AY 2021-2022.
“Instead of imposing policies that would simply extend the hardships of learners, parents and teachers, the DepEd and the Duterte administration should device a clear plan for the safe conduct of limited and voluntary in-person learning in low-risk areas, provide the education department adequate supplemental budget to provide for all teaching and learning resources needed in distance learning, and ensure the provision of health protection and payment of just benefits to education workers,” Castro said.