DepEd: Opening of school year a success

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    School opening. Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (in green), chairman of the Senate committee on basic education and culture, observes how teachers at the Valenzuela School of Mathematics and Science hold online classes using a laptop on top of a vinyl chair serving as an improvised stand, during the opening of classes Monday. PHOTO BY RHOY COBILLA

    EDUCATION Secretary Leonor Briones yesterday described the opening of classes under the new normal as successful despite reports of slow and weak internet connection, a major component of the department’s blended distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Briones noted that 24.75 million students officially started classes in their homes, exceeding the department’s commitment to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to equal 80 percent of last year’s enrollment despite the challenges posed by the deadly virus.

    “Sa buong bansa, umabot tayo ng 24,753,906 enrollees (For the whole country, we tallied 24,753,906 enrollees) which is equivalent to 89 percent of last year’s enrollment. That is beyond our commitment to the NEDA of 80 percent,” Briones said in an interview aired over the public briefing “Laging Handa.”

    There was no mention, however, of the difficulties that teachers and students endured as they held online classes for the first time in the country. On a positive note, majority of students seemed excited to go back to school.

    Yesterday was World Teachers’ Day but there was no celebration among local instructors, especially those who were forced to use innovative ways to reach their students through cellphones, laptops and tablets. Some teachers were even forced to pay for wi-fi connections just so they could hold classes as scheduled.

    Briones admitted that another pressing issue is the lack of connectivity for many areas of the country.

    “Itong internet problem, hindi ito challenge lamang sa DepEd – challenge ito sa buong sistema natin sa ating bayan. At hindi lamang ang DepEd and maka-resolba nito (This internet problem is a challenge not just for DepEd but for the entire country. So it follows that DepEd cannot resolve this problem by itself,” she said.

    Based on DepEd figures, there was hardly any change in the public school enrollment year on year as this school year’s tally hit 99.7 percent.

    “Ang medyo challenging ay ‘yung nasa private sector natin. Hindi lahat ng mga private sector learners natin ay nakapag-enroll (What’s presenting a bit of a challenge is the private sector. Many of our private sector learners were not able to enroll this school year,” Briones said.

    She expressed optimism the number will pick up in the coming days as other schools are still admitting late enrollees.

    She also noted that with the gradual opening of the economy and resumption of businesses, more households are starting to get additional income, which could enable them to enroll children in private schools.

    “Every day there are more students coming in. We will accept them until the end of November,” she said, adding there will be an overall assessment of the effectivity of blended learning after the fourth quarter of 2020.

    “We are overwhelmed by the cooperation of numerous sectors in seeing to it that this school year will be successful. We had lots of help from the civil society, national government agencies, local government units and of course, our parents and learners,” Briones said.

    The DepEd also issued the updated school calendar and guidelines for assessing and grading the students under the new normal.

    Under DepEd Order No. 30, series of 2020, the total number of school days this year is 205, starting October 5, 2020 during the opening of classes, and will end on June 11, 2021.

    The Christmas break begins on December 19, 2020 and classes will resume on January 4, 2021.

    DepEd Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio said that due to the compressed number of school days, Briones gave the go-signal to hold classes every Sunday.

    The first quarter of the academic year is from October 5 to November 28, 2020; second quarter from December 1, 2020 to February 6, 2021; third quarter from February 16 – April 10, 2020; and fourth quarter from April 12 – June 5, 2021.

    Summer classes will be held from June 14 to 23, 2021.

    The Department’s Order 31, series of 2020, showed a sample computation on the grading scheme for written works and performance tasks under different subjects – language, math, science, history, music, arts, physical education, and technical and livelihood education.

    San Antonio said the student assessment and grading guidelines can also be used by private schools, technical and vocational institutions, and higher education institutions, including state and local universities and colleges.

    “Private schools and other institutions are allowed to modify the policies or guidelines,” San Antonio said.

    Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Prospero De Vera III has commended the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) for finding innovative ways of providing flexible learning options during these trying times.

    “Many SUCs gave students tablets and gadgets so they can join online sessions. What is unique in LSPU is that they decided to bring connectivity to the needy students,” De Vera said.

    He said LSPU converted regular school buses to E-Learning Laboratories to be used for classes today.

    LSPU president Mario R. Briones said each bus can accommodate 15 students and is equipped with computers and internet connection.

    “The buses will be rotated in municipalities where there are LSPU students without gadgets and internet connection due to financial limitations,” he explained.

    “We have been coordinating with local government units so that we can park these buses and identified students can use the computers for the day. The electrical connection needed to run the equipment and air conditioning will be shouldered by the LGU,” he added.

    The Mandaluyong government distributed ₱557 million worth of laptops, tablets and other gadgets to the city’s public schools.

    Mayor Menchie Abalos, who led the turnover ceremony along with city and DepEd officials, said 41,000 tablets were given to grade 4 to 12 students living in the city while 2,300 laptops were distributed to teachers and school staff like the principal.

    “These devices will be given to students and they won’t have to return it (tablets) after the school year. They can use the tablets in the next school year while teachers won’t have to pay a thing for their laptops,” Abalos said.

    “We take our children’s education seriously. All they have to do is study hard,” she said. – With Noel Talacay and Christian Oineza