In 2021, the Philippines became the last country in the world to open its classrooms to children again.
For most of the year, the Department of Education (DepEd) continued its remote learning system from 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic first struck. This, despite criticism from various stakeholders about how the system was leaving the less privileged students and teachers behind because of the digital divide.
The Duterte government had always claimed that the decision to keep schools closed was in the best interest of the children, as COVID-19 vaccines were not available to the youth for most of the year.
When vaccination for minors did roll out, it was only for those aged 12 to 17.
College students, meanwhile, were allowed to return to their classrooms earlier. Rite-of-passage entrance exams were waived for a second year in a row.
The year also started with a bang for academic freedom. Students and alumni of certain institutions were caught up in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ongoing crackdown on progressive groups. Schools and universities were red-tagged.
Here’s a review of education in the Philippines in 2021.
From distance learning to limited face-to-face classes
Multiple times, President Duterte rejected the return to face-to-face classes. 2021 saw the second school opening under the distance learning system.
- Duterte rejects face-to-face classes until vaccines available in PH
- Why PH schools remain closed a year into the pandemic
- Face-to-face graduation rites still not allowed due to pandemic – DepEd
- Duterte again thumbs down face-to-face classes due to Delta variant
- Private schools want own guidelines on limited face-to-face classes
- Private schools say low enrollment for school year 2021-2022 ‘a major concern’
- Senators irked by DepEd’s lack of ‘urgency’ on safe school reopening
- What the Philippines’ 2nd pandemic school opening will look like
- IN PHOTOS: 2nd pandemic school opening in the Philippines
In September, Duterte finally agreed to allow a pilot run of limited face-to-face classes in areas in the Philippines deemed low-risk.
- Duterte approves limited face-to-face classes in 120 schools
- What we know so far: Pilot run of limited face-to-face classes in PH
- PH resumes face-to-face classes in select areas after nearly 2 years of lockdown
- Young students tend to take off masks in face-to-face classes – DepEd
- ‘Schools are zones of peace’: DepEd frowns on presence of armed cops in classroom
- [DOCUMENTARY] What the first day of limited face-to-face classes looks like in Pangasinan
- 28 public schools in Metro Manila start face-to-face classes on December 6 – DepEd
- DepEd to conclude pilot run of face-to-face classes by end-December
- DepEd ‘very optimistic’ of shift to limited face-to-face classes in school year 2022-2023
More programs in colleges and universities were gradually included in the coverage of face-to-face classes.
- LIST: Medical schools in the Philippines allowed to hold face-to-face classes
- Duterte OKs limited face-to-face classes in engineering, tourism, 3 other courses
- CHED eyes limited face-to-face classes for engineering, IT courses
- CHED: There’s no going back, ‘flexible learning will be new norm’
- Limited face-to-face classes for all degree programs now allowed in Alert Level 2 areas
Issues with distance learning, quality of education
The issues with distance learning from 2020 spilled over into 2021. Some of the problems that persisted were connectivity issues, academic dishonesty, and the quality of education that came with the prolonged remote setup.
- In remote learning, some students pay someone else to do their classwork
- DepEd probes academic dishonesty in distance learning
- DepEd: 99% of students got passing marks because teachers were ‘considerate’
- Pandemic highlights issues in DepEd’s K to 12 program – PCIJ
- Teachers, school heads to get higher special hardship allowance – DepEd
- [PODCAST] Beyond the Stories: Paano magiging epektibo ang flexible learning sa kolehiyo?
- WATCH: Class of 2021 shares what it’s like to graduate during a pandemic
- Rappler Talk: How effective was the past year of distance learning?
- Distance learning in the Philippines: A year of hits and misses
- Distance learning, year 2: Parents ask for gadgets for struggling students
- DepEd assures students of ‘better’ learning modules for school year 2021-2022
The education department also took offense after the World Bank put out a report on poor learning results among Filipino students in July.
- [ANALYSIS] 8 facts from WB education report they don’t want you to read
- DepEd head demands apology from World Bank for PH poor education ranking
- World Bank apologizes to Philippines for education report ‘oversight’
- Duterte on PH’s poor education ranking: ‘Mahirap kasi tayo’
Entrance exams canceled
College entrance tests, deemed rites of passage for entering universities in pre-pandemic times, were suspended for the second year in a row. Here are some of them:
- No college entrance exam in DLSU for academic year 2021-2022 due to pandemic
- No college entrance test again in Ateneo for academic year 2022-2023
- UP again cancels UPCAT due to pandemic
Academic freedom, advocacies
2021 opened with the Duterte government unilaterally ending an accord that prevented armed forces from entering the state university, the University of the Philippines. This sparked calls to protect academic freedom in an institution known to fight for it since the Marcos dictatorship.
Advocacy groups also continued calls from 2020 for the administration to attend to the numerous flaws in the distance learning system.
- Duterte gov’t ends 1989 deal barring troops from UP
- What you need to know about the 1989 UP-DND accord
- End of UP-DND agreement an ‘assault against the freedom of UP’
- Top universities denounce red-tagging of schools
- Students urge schools to extend academic break amid rising COVID-19 cases
- Empower LGUs to make decisions on school opening – advocacy group
- Youth group slams unchanged, ‘miserable’ online learning setup
- UP Diliman: CHED chief De Vera fails mandate to defend academic freedom
- Students from Odette-ravaged areas call for deadline extension