The Department of Education (DepEd) projects an 80% enrollment turnout for public and private schools for school year 2020-2021, the department announced in a press briefing on Wednesday, July 1.
With the beginning of the school year set for August 24, which the agency said is pushing through, there were 16.6 million enrollees so far as of Wednesday morning.
Most of the students – 15.8 million – enrolled in public schools, while just over 700,000 enrolled in private schools.
This is roughly 59% of the enrollment turnout of 27.7 million students in 2019. The enrollment period was supposed to close on June 30, but the DepEd extended it to July 15.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the low turnout rate of private schools is "usual" because private schools may open their classes on a different date than August 24, and so they may submit their enrollment data later than public schools.
Briones also noted that the department anticipates a lower turnout in general, as they understand that not all parents can enroll their children in school due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The DepEd decided to shift to distance learning for the coming school year to comply with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive for schools to postpone face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.
Distance learning will be implemented in 3 ways – through online classes, printed materials, and broadcasting classes through television and radio. (READ: FAST FACTS: DepEd's distance learning)
How about those who can't enroll this year? Education Undersecretary Jesus Lorenzo Mateo said that even without formal schooling, there could still be a way to facilitate "blended learning," a program that uses a mix of distance and online learning.
Briones also noted that the DepEd offers the Alternative Learning System (ALS) program, a non-formal mode of education which involves ALS specialists and the option for a flexible class schedule.
The department continues to encourage parents to enroll their children in school, but it has also said that they will respect the parents' decision if they cannot.
"We are doing everything to encourage the parents.... You can bring a carabao to the river, but you cannot force the carabao to drink," said Briones.
Mateo said there is currently no data on families that have already confirmed that they will not enroll their children.
Is the country ready for school? With the school opening less than two months away, there are doubts on whether the government is ready to implement distance learning. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education 'only for those who can afford')
The DepEd released "non-negotiable" requirements for distance learning, which have been slammed as "hypocritical" by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers since the department is imposing requirements on private schools when it cannot commit the same things for public schools.
Requirements include schools needing to set up their own email domains and platforms, hiring help desk personnel, and making sure students and teachers have the necessary resources to access lessons.