THE tenacity of Education Secretary Leonor Briones deserves notice. In the face of equally pertinacious critics and political activists who wanted her to call off the forthcoming school year 2020-2021, which is due to start on October 5, Secretary Briones adamantly holds on to everybody’s belief that education should continue with or without the COVID-19 pandemic.
In most televised meetings of President Duterte with some members of his Cabinet who have direct participation and responsibilities in the government’s official response to COVID-19, Secretary Briones was there to brief the President about what is happening in the education sector.
‘Secretary Briones attests to the fact that education occupies top priority in the mind of Filipinos, especially Filipino children.’
The DepEd said there are over 24 million students now enrolled in both public and private schools. “We have 24 million learners and just under 50 million parents who have expressed their desire to continue the education of their children,” Briones said.
We agree with her that this is more than enough to counter those who propose an “academic freeze.”
Although face-to-face instruction is still banned because of the real risk of transmission of the coronavirus in schools, the department has already exceeded its reduced enrollment target this year. Briones said the current enrollment in public schools at 22.22 million is already 98.46 percent of the previous year’s enrollment.
To replace the old method with the new normal and thus ensure the continuity of children’s learning, the DepEd developed its Basic Education-Learning Continuing Plan (LDP) which uses the alternative learning delivery modes. These include online learning, students’ self-learning modules, and radio-TV instruction.
It is interesting to compare the data on this year’s enrollment with the numbers of COVID-19 infections, recoveries and deaths. The highest number of enrollees are from Region 4-A (Calabarzon) with 3.35 million, followed by Region 3 (Central Luzon) with 2.58 million, and the National Capital Region (NCR) with 2.54 million. These are also the three regions which were extensively devastated by the pandemic.
Secretary Briones attests to the fact that education occupies top priority in the mind of Filipinos, especially Filipino children. The secretary said those who are calling for the cancellation of classes this school year should “listen to the children” and they will know the eagerness of the youth to return to school, even if only virtually.
Finally, the department recognizes the effects of the economic fallout with many parents losing their jobs, incomes and savings. They need more breathing space to scrape money for the enrollment of their children. DepEd thus announced that even late enrollees who will list in November will be accepted by the schools. It is really time for all agencies of the government to reach out even more to all citizens who are badly in need.