SEN. Francis Tolentino yesterday asked the Department of Education to postpone the opening of classes to a later date as he questioned the agency’s readiness, saying issues on internet connectivity needed on online classes and access to learning tools have not been ironed out with barely two weeks to the target opening date of August 24.
Tolentino issued the appeal after it came out during the Senate committee on basic education hearing that internet connectivity remains a big problem in some areas and that printing of learning modules have yet to be completed.
“Forcing schools to open this August will only defeat the purpose of education. Let us accept the fact that we are not fully ready, and it will not be wise to simultaneously open school year 2020-2021. Let those areas with low health risk, those that are ready with learning modules, and areas not hampered by quarantine restrictions begin classes using whatever modality is best to ensure public health and safety,” Tolentino said.
During a presentation made by DepEd chief of staff Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan, it was learned the printing of self-learning modules to be used in the first quarter (first two months) of the school year have yet to reach at least 50 percent of the expected number of modules to be printed in a number of regions.
Malaluan assured that printing of self-learning modules needed for the first two weeks after August 24 will be ready.
“Anyway, the self-learning modules will not be needed on the first week from August 24 as it (first week) will be devoted to orientations and psychosocial interventions. Priority is to have at least first two weeks (of learning modules) available on August 24. Printing for the succeeding weeks will be on a rolling basis,” Malaluan said.
Tolentino, however, said the DepEd has not crafted the implementing rules and regulations in order to carry out the new normal of learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The prevailing health, livelihood, and internet connectivity situations should all be considered by DepEd,” he added.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Senate committee on basic education chair, said DepEd should recommend the deferment of school opening in Metro Manila and nearby provinces if the modified enhanced community quarantine status is extended.
“We should just postpone the school opening in those areas. We can’t just let our teachers and parents go out in worsening conditions,” Gatchalian said, adding the August 24 school opening was based on the premise the pandemic situation has improved by then.
He said DepEd must come up with a program to take care of teachers and non-teaching staff who may be infected with the virus as they go around distributing and collecting modules from students.
Gatchalian said the distribution of modules have been put on hold after Metro Manila and nearby provinces were reverted to MECQ.
If the MECQ is lifted by August 19, he said school officials will only be left with five days to carry out the task before the opening of classes on August 24.
“Can we finish the distribution of self-learning modules in time?” Gatchalian asked.
The DepEd said it is up to private schools if they would require their students to wear uniforms during the implementation of distance learning.
DepEd Undersecretary Anne Sevilla the agency respecting the autonomy of private schools in the country.
She clarified the announced made by DepEd last Tuesday that students are not required to wear uniforms for the coming school year, saying it is meant only for public schools.
As of August 12, DepEd said 23,117,793 students have enrolled in public and private schools, including state universities and colleges, representing just 83.18% of more the 27 million students who enrolled last year. – With Noel Talacay