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MANILA, Philippines – Almost 22.7 million K-12 public school students are set to begin classes on Tuesday, August 29.
Department of Education (DepEd) Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas said in an interview on CNN Philippines, “In general, I can say that all systems go for the opening on August 29.”
DepEd’s figures, released on Monday highlight Calabarzon (Region IV-A) as the leading region in terms of enrollment, with 3.4 million enrolled students. This is followed closely by Central Luzon (Region III) and the National Capital Region (NCR), both contributing 2.6 million and 2.5 million students respectively.
While the enrollment falls short of DepEd’s 28.8 million target, the department anticipates an increase in late enrollees during the first week of classes.
With the resumption of in-person classes for the second year post-pandemic, students will walk into classrooms of bare walls, stripped of decorations and “clutter,” following an order from Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte during the recent “Brigada Eskwela” (School Brigade).
This year will also mark the last year of the current “congested” curriculum for students ranging from kindergarten to 10th grade.
The subsequent years will introduce the recently launched “Matatag” (Firm) curriculum in phases, starting from the 2024-2025 school year. This revised curriculum aims to address the learning crisis through the streamlining of foundational subjects from seven to five.
A 2021 World Bank study highlighted that over 90% of Filipino students aged 10 struggle with comprehending age-appropriate text.
A review of the senior high school (grades 10-12) curriculum is currently underway, with details expected to be disclosed in 2024. (READ: New K-10 curriculum in the Philippines: What you need to know)
EMBO schools: From Makati to Taguig
Caught in the crossfire of the Enlisted Men’s Barrio (EMBO) barangays’ jurisdictional dispute – shifting from Makati to Taguig – are at least 30,000 students across 14 schools, who now find themselves under Taguig’s administration.
The transfer of schools has spurred complaints from parents accustomed to generous school supplies and benefits provided by Makati City government.
DepEd’s central office has intervened by directly overseeing these disputed schools, facilitating a seamless transition to the Taguig-Pateros Schools Division.
Last August 23, DepEd disclosed during the Senate hearing on basic education the classroom deficit of 159,000 for this academic year, a significant increase from 2022’s shortage of 91,000 classrooms.
Contrary to DepEd’s earlier projection, this increase is opposite of what was predicted a year ago, with the department aiming to alleviate the classroom deficit to 40,000.
During a Senate hearing, DepEd data indicated that roughly 50% of the existing 7,520 senior high school classrooms are congested, accompanied by 41% of the 10,188 junior high school classrooms. Simultaneously, 32% of primary school (K-6) classrooms face overcrowding, underscoring the urgency for infrastructural expansion.
Bringas mentioned then that the education department was exploring strategies like blended learning and promoting the voucher program to address classroom shortages.
To address this gap, DepEd estimates a requirement of at least P397 billion to construct all 159,000 classrooms.
This is about 43% of the P924.7 billion earmarked for the education department in the 2024 National Expenditure Program.
Presently, DepEd is advocating a budget allocation of merely P10 billion for classroom construction in 2024. This would cover over 7,000 classrooms, only a fraction of the classroom deficit.
Duterte in Cebu
Similar to 2022, Duterte will attend “Balik Eskwela” outside of Metro Manila in vote-rich Cebu province, as she is there for a three-day visit for several events.
This year, she is slated to appear at Kaluangan 1 Primary School, a remote “last-mile school” in Asturias town in northern Cebu.
After this, she will proceed to Melecio B. Tito Elementary School in the rural part of Danao City, about 1 to 2 hours away from Cebu City.
Duterte holds a special connection with Danao, where she traces her roots on her father’s side (former President Rodrigo Duterte). It is also the city where her grandfather, the late Vicente Duterte, was mayor before he migrated to Davao, where he served as governor.
Duterte won the vice presidency by a landslide in Cebu with over 1.7 million votes, even more than Marcos’ 1.5 million. – Rappler.com