Decline in enrollees: Parents cite finances, doubts about distance learning

From Aika’s* 42 students in 2019, only 20 had expressed interest in enrolling for the next year. This, after the Department of Education (DepEd) announced that school year 2020-2021, which will start on August 24, will use a distance learning approach during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Aika, a public school elementary teacher in Laguna, most of the students and parents cited their lack of access to the internet and technology at home, their lack of income, and their fear of contracting COVID-19 as reasons for not enrolling. 

"'Yung bills nila tumambak dahil sa lockdown, so ang priority nila ay makahanap ng work. Kumbaga sa ngayon hindi nila priority ang education," she added.

(Some parents are prioritizing looking for jobs, so they could pay the bills which have piled up during lockdown. Education is not their top priority right now.)

Decline in enrollment 'for certain'

During a virtual press briefing on Thursday, May 29, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said that she would respect the decision of parents not to send their children to schools this year.

"Kami ay sumusunod sa mandato ng Presidente. Sumusunod kami sa batas na hanggang last day of August ang enrollment. Nasa parents na iyon kung ano ang desisyon nila. I-rerespeto namin ang kanilang desisyon," Briones said.  

(We are following the mandate of the President. We are following the law, which says that enrollent is until the last day of August. The decision is up to the parents. We will respect their decision.)

Meanwhile, Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said that a decline in enrollment is "for certain" as some parents might not be able to facilitate learning at home. 

"There's a [sic] possibility of the decrease because maraming considerations ang mga magulang. Especially ang pag-aaral ngayon (Especially the kind of learning now), it will require the partnership from the parent or someone from home," Malaluan said. 

This is true for 31-year-old Richelle Bacelisco, who said that she would not enroll her two children in school this year as she and her husband have to prioritize making ends meet for their family. 

She was set to start work as a call center agent last March, but was put on hold due to the lockdown. Her husband works now in a food delivery service.

"Ang focus muna namin ngayon ay mabuhay, dahil sa ngayon walang-wala na po kami talaga," Bacelisco said. (Our focus for now is just to live, because right now we really have nothing.)

In a distance learning approach, parents will have to play an active role in the learning process. They will have to facilitate and guide their children through modular lessons sent by the school. 

Malaluan said that aside from the incapability of parents to guide their children in the learning process at home, some parents may also be doubting whether children could learn their lessons effectively through alternative modes.

"So baka mag-dalawang isip sila na i-enrol ang mga anak nila. 'Yung iba nagdududa if makaka-deliver ba talaga ng distance learning (They are having second thoughts on enrolling their children. Some doubt if [schools] can really deliver distance learning). Will there be materials they can get? Will their children be able to learn?" Malaluan said. 

But despite these concerns, DepEd said classes will push through. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)

Access to technology 'not a problem'

On the lack of technology access, the DepEd said that parents don’t need to buy gadgets for their children this year because schools will be providing printed modules for them. (READ: No need to buy gadgets, printed materials will be given – DepEd)

Kahit ho walang gadget at internet, kami po ay naghahanda din ng mga printed learning modules at gagawan natin ng paraan na ihatid sa mga tahanan, o kaya merong coordinated na pag-pick up nitong mga printed learning modules na ito," Malaluan.

(Even if they don't have gadgets and internet access, we're preparing printed learning modules and will find a way to bring them to their homes, or we can set up coordinated pick-up points for these modules.)

During Thursday’s virtual briefing, DepEd said that it will be conducting another round of surveys starting June 1, which is also the start of the month-long public school enrollment. (READ: Remote enrollment in basic education will be implemented during pandemic)

The survey will include a question about the students' preferred mode of learning.

DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said that the department is asking help from local government units to hand out surveys in their areas. – Rappler.com

*Name has been changed for privacy

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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