opening of classes

DepEd looking for ‘learning opportunities’ for some 4 million out-of-school children

Bonz Magsambol

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'As of this time, our main focus is those who have enrolled, but we will discuss in greater detail this non-participation [of students],' says Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan

Though the new school year ravaged by the raging pandemic is about to begin, the Department of Education (DepEd) said it would study how it could help some 4 million basic education students who failed to enroll.

During the Senate committee hearing on basic education Wednesday, August 12, DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said: “Pinagusapan namin ‘yan sa department (We’re discussing it in the department). Halimbawa (For example), what interventions can be done for these non-enrollees to still be able to access learning opportunities.”

Classes are set to start on August 24, with some 23 million learners about to undergo an education system overhauled because of the spread of the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2.

This school year’s enrollees is about 4 million lower than the 27.7 million who enlisted last year.

The staggering drop affected the lawmakers. Senator Nancy Binay had to clarify. She asked: “More or less, 4 million out of school youth for next school year?” Malaluan affirmed this.

The DepEd assured the senators that those left out, would not be left behind. “But as of this time, our main focus is those who have enrolled, but we will discuss in greater detail this non-participation [of students],” Malaluan said.

Meanwhile, private schools faced bleaker prospects with enrollment remaining low two weeks before school opening.

As of Wednesday, a total of 1,569,045 students have enrolled in private schools. This is just a third of last year’s 4.4 million private school enrollees.

DepEd said that around 400,000 former private school students have transferred to public schools.

Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations Managing Director Joseph Noel Estrada said that it was unlikely they could hit their target of 50% of enrollees from last year.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier attributed the dip in enrollment to the economic downturn caused by the closure or limited operations of most businesses and establishments.

The DepEd shifted to distance learning for the coming school year to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order that schools postpone face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

Citing the worsening situation in high-risk areas, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, recommended to postpone the opening of classes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces if the modified enhanced community quarantine is extended. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.