Printed materials, online classes ‘most preferred’ for distance learning – DepEd

Michelle Abad
The Department of Education says the opening of classes on August 24 is pushing through, despite criticism regarding the government’s readiness for implementing distance learning

PREPARATION. A teacher at the Mabini Elementary School in Baguio City prepares emergency kits for students and disinfects the premises to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The most preferred options students chose for distance learning are printed modules or online classes for the next school year, according to the Learner Enrollment and Survey Form (LESF) conducted by the Department of Education (DepEd).

In a slide presented in a July 1 press briefing, the DepEd found around 2 million students want to learn online, while 3.8 million students want printed materials as a mode of instruction (also called the “modular” method).

Screenshot sourced by Rappler from the Department of Education

The LESF is filled out by all parents who enroll their children in school. While there were 16.6 million enrollees at the time of the presentation on July 1, DepEd planning director Roger Masapol explained there is a “lag” in encoding the answers for the LESF, and so the total respondents reflected on the survey were 10.9 million.

Masapol also said parents may choose to not answer every question, and those who did answer could choose more than one answer for their preferred modes.

While the survey reflects the responses of a few million students, they still do not reflect the answers of all 16.6 million students who enrolled for school year 2020-2021 as of July 1. So far, this is also just roughly 59% of the turnout of 2019, with 27.7 million enrollees.

The department estimates an enrollment turnout this year of 80%.

The DepEd is shifting to a distance learning approach for the next school year to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to postpone face-to-face classes until there is an available coronavirus vaccine. The school year is set to open on August 24.

Distance learning will be implemented in 3 different ways – online classes, printed modules, and broadcasted lessons through television or radio. (FAST FACTS: DepEd’s distance learning)

As of Wednesday, July 1, the DepEd’s units are “busy preparing the self-learning modules for all subjects and grade levels.” Meanwhile, regional offices are adjusting the distance learning programs to make them more suitable to the situations on the ground.

The DepEd also made a Learning Resource and Platforms Committee that would focus on ensuring the availability of learning resources, platforms, and technologies.

How will distance learning work? The Navotas division schools office presented how they are implementing distance learning in its ongoing dry run.

Kindergarten teacher Fatie Robles explained that she did a survey on her students. For her student she found had no access to a smartphone, computer, or laptop, Robles reached out to the parents via text message to coordinate on a possible mode of education. They worked out an arrangement where the Sanggunian Kabataan chairperson would act as the “parrot” teacher for the child.

DepEd Navotas also showcased its “NavoSchool in-a-box” – a package that includes learning packets and other things parents may need to facilitate classes at home. For the parents who cannot go to the schools to pick them up, DepEd suggested the schools could coordinate with local governments to transport the materials to the students’ houses.

Another teacher from DepEd Navotas, Maria Cristina Robles, said that before the distribution of learner packages, class advisers conducted online orientations via videoconferencing for parents. Parents who were not able to attend were given instructions through phone call.

The parents could also course feedback through channels like Facebook Messenger.

DepEd Navotas superintendent Alejandro Ibañez also said they did upskilling and reskilling for teachers in 3 competencies: mental and psychosocial support, conducting flexible learning options, and utilizing technology.

How about students with special needs? DepEd Cagayan Valley Director Estela Cariño said that students with special needs will have video sessions and assigned teachers that will be guiding them.

“The activities we placed in the self-learning modules will be appropriate for learners with special needs, too. We still have to give these learners the same kind of care that we gave them while we were doing face-to-face classes. Most of them would be using videotaped lessons aside from the modules,” Cariño said in a press release.

Is the country prepared? The DepEd reported that there are over 1 million computer devices distributed across 44,155 public schools. However, half of these cannot be lent as they are thin clients – computers meant for establishing remote connections with a server-based computing environment.

Meanwhile, there is another set of 532,637 devices – including desktop computers, laptops, and tablets – that teachers can borrow for blended learning.

The DepEd disclosed in a June 25 Senate inquiry that only 40% of its public school teachers are trained for distance learning. 

Citing data from the National Telecommunications Commission, DepEd said that as of December 2019, 67% of the Philippine population has access to the internet.

The department has been met with criticism on its readiness to implement distance learning, as well as calls to postpone the school year. President Duterte himself raised doubts on the country’s readiness in this regard. 

There have been reports on social media showing Filipino students climbing trees, or even mountains, just to get a good internet signal for their classes. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)

However, DepEd affirmed in Wednesday’s press conference that D-day is still expected on August 24. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.