Teachers’ group wants class opening delayed to January 2021

Bonz Magsambol

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Teachers’ group wants class opening delayed to January 2021
The Teachers' Dignity Coalition says delaying the opening of classes would give them more time to prepare for the distance learning approach

MANILA, Philippines – A teachers’ group said that while a face-to-face setup for learning is out of the equation for now, delaying the opening of classes from August 24 to a later date would give them more time to prepare for the distance learning approach.

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual briefing on Wednesday, June 3, Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) national chairperson Benjo Basas said the distance learning approach for the coming school year would be a challenge for teachers due to lack of “enough preparation.”

“Kung sakali na hindi matutuloy ang pasukan sa August 24, hindi po masasayang ang oras. Ito po ay kailangang gamitin [ng Department of Education o DepEd] para i-train ang mga guro,” Basa said.

(If the class opening won’t push through on August 24, time would not be wasted. The DepEd should use this time to train teachers.)

Speaking to Rappler in a phone interview, Basas said 3 months to prepare is not enough given that there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed such as accessibility, connectivity, and training for teachers.

For TDC, January 2021 would be a better time to start classes, whether physical or distance learning.

“At this point, the better and [the safer time] for school opening is January. Baka marami na tayo nagawa by that time (We would probably be sufficiently prepared by then),” Basas said.

Much work to be done

On Monday, June 1, senators unanimously approved on final reading a bill which seeks to give President Rodrigo Duterte the power to start classes later than August during a state of emergency.

Voting 23-0, senators passed Senate Bill No. 1541, which proposes to amend Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7797, the law that sets the start of classes between the first Monday of June and the last day of August. The Philippines is under a state of public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Under the bill, the President, upon the recommendation of the DepEd, may “set a different date” for the start of classes nationwide or in parts of the country.

The bill would cover all basic education schools, including foreign and international schools.

“The point of this bill is to give flexibility to the President. We, at the Senate, are very flexible, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who sponsored the measure, said in a mix of English and Filipino during Wednesday’s virtual briefing.

For Pasig City Representative Roman Romulo, there’s still much work to be done in the implementation of distance learning.

“Ang importante maayos natin ang modality para magkaroon ng edukasyon sa bahay (What’s important is we fix the modality for education at home),”added Romulo.

The House of Representatives has yet to pass a counterpart measure, House Bill No. 6895. It was approved on 2nd reading on Monday.

Training, orientation

The decision to open schools in the middle of the health crisis had been met with criticism. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)

Parents and students pointed out that the lockdown affected household finances. Many Filipinos don’t even have access to a computer or the internet.

The DepEd maintained the lack of access to technology should not be a problem as schools will be providing printed modules for students. (READ: No need to buy gadgets, printed materials will be given – DepEd)

In an interview with DZMM on Tuesday, June 2, Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali also said the DepEd would provide training and orientation for parents and guardians who will guide students at home.

The DepEd is conducting public school enrollment for the whole month of June.

At least 545,558 students have confirmed their enrollment or expressed interest to transfer schools, based on data submitted from 4 regions, according to the DepEd.

Around 27.7 million basic education students enrolled last school year. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.