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DepEd rejects anew calls for academic freeze

For the Department of Education (DepEd), an academic freeze or the suspension or cancellation of the school year would have a "massive impact" on the lives of students "economically."

In an interview with ANC's Matters of Fact on Wednesday, November 18, Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said the stand of the DepEd on the matter is "so clear" that "the moment we stopped" the education of students, "their capacity to earn is affected."

"We can't afford to withdraw the opportunity of our youngsters to be able to learn. We will make this available. We will also continue to make it flexible and we will make adjustments, mindful of the idea that we will enable the child to really learn the most foundational skills, the most essential ones that they will find useful later in their lives," San Antonio said.

Instead, San Antonio said that the DepEd is implementing academic ease – making activities in a "less burdensome way" – following reports of students experiencing distance learning burnout.

Recognizing the difficulties of students during distance learning, San Antonio said DepEd instructed teachers to adjust the number of student requirements as well as the deadlines of submission to a "more reasonable time."

"We extended the first quarter by two weeks so that the pacing could be readjusted," San Antonio added.

Calls for an academic freeze resurfaced following the consecutive typhoons that battered the country in the past weeks, affecting students' access to education due to loss of electricity, internet connection, and the destruction of their homes. (READ: 'Ill-informed': DepEd dismisses calls for academic freeze)

In early November, Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni) caused extensive damage particularly in the Bicol region, and damaged at least 226 schools. Still recovering from Rolly, Luzon on November 11 then bore the brunt of yet another storm – Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco).

Why this matters

Following the onslaught of the typhoons, there have been reports of learning modules being washed away by flood or getting soaked in water due to heavy rains.

On Monday, the DepEd said it would replace learning modules damaged by consecutive typhoons that hit the country.

Prior to this, Education Secretary Leonor Briones irked the public after her remarks that schools should have to solve on their own the problem of damaged learning modules caused by the typhoon by drying these under the sun, or using a flat iron.

This happened at a time when the agency was in hot water over its planned purchase of P4.2-million worth of Christmas "ham and cheese," which they already cancelled on Saturday, November 13, the same time the public questioned its priorities. (READ: DepEd scraps bidding for P4.2-M worth of Christmas 'ham and cheese')

The DepEd said it has since "reallocated the funds for the needs of those affected by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses and the ongoing COVID-19 effort for our employees." 

On the tertiary level, Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero de Vera III on Tuesday rejected calls for a unilateral suspension of classes in the country or in Luzon due to the recent disasters in parts of the country, saying this decision is best left to schools.

Schools in the country opened in the middle of the pandemic using distance learning – a mix of online learning and modules – following President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to suspend face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.– Rappler.com

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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