More than 24 million enrollees—22.31 million students from public schools—are officially going back to school or going there for the first time on Monday, on the first gear to distance learning to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to delay face-to-face classes.
Some questions arise as public school teachers, who will be at the forefront of this system where no one pupil should be left out, prepare for the school opening.
Instance, can the government, through the Department of Education, now deliver safe, accessible, and quality education for all students?
In the weeks after the postponed opening of schools on August 24, issues the government was supposed to address included the printing of modules, with experts pointing out that modular learning was the “backbone” of DepEd’s distance learning program, given that access to technology has remained a drawback for most students.
Other modes of learning like online as well as radio and television broadcasts would supplement the modules.
At a recent congressional hearing on DepEd’s P568-billion budget for 2021, Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said the 22.31 million students from public schools represented 98.85 percent of all expected enrollees from public schools.
This is not the first time that school opening has been moved this year. As COVID-19 cases continued to rise, the usual June opening of classes was first moved to August 24.
But the almost two-month extension appeared to be inadequate for DepEd to transition to the overhauled education system, prompting a second postponement to October 5.
With distance learning now appearing to be the new normal in public schools, DepEd decided to shift to distance learning and postpone face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine has been made available, gone through trials and approved by health authorities.
Before the weekend, coronavirus infections and deaths reached almost 315,000 and near 5,600 respectively, with 254,200 plus recoveries, only three days to the official opening of classes in public schools on Monday.
Then the printing of modules was purportedly the reason why the school opening was postponed yet once more in August, with reports many teachers did not have copies of the modules or had the wrong modules in the run up to the original date of the school opening.
But on Monday, DepEd Secretary Briones, on the National School Opening Day Program, to be kicked off by a 7:30 am flag raising ceremony, will give an inspirational message and formally declare the opening of the new academic year despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Some local government units have come forward to help students within their jurisdictions—with some donating tablets and other equipment needed by students for the blended learning system.
Which again points to the obvious disparity in situations throughout the country: Among students, teachers, schools and local government units.
And there are also the health protocols still to be fully addressed and followed as Day One for 2020-2021 rolls in through the academic corridors.
It’s not the best of circumstances, but we hope for good results anyway.