The big debate in government now is whether it would allow the opening of school year 2020-2021 on August 24, and proceed as scheduled.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte in an earlier pronouncement, expressed his disavowal for the holding of classes because of the possibility that students brought to the classrooms in huge number could be infected by the corona virus disease 2019 (CoViD 19) which has been on a pandemic proportion for some three months already. And it is apparent that the deadly virus is here to stay for a still undetermined period of time despite the many health protocols adopted by various governments in the world.
The President however, did not totally allow education to be another victim of the pandemic. He did not order the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to cancel the forthcoming school year.
While the chief executive clearly mentioned that hed rather have the students go back to school when there is already a vaccine against CoViD 19 being administered by health authorities, he also ordered DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, and CHED chairman Prospero Popoy de Vera to come up with recommendations on how classes at all levels be resumed even as whatever scheme suggested be largely responsive to the need to stop the spread of CoViD 19.
As far as students in the tertiary level are concerned proceeding with the incoming school year is not much of a problem. After all, enrollees for college courses are already in ages capable of understanding the health protocols in effect. Besides, most of the college students are already adept in using educational gadgets needed to proceed with their classes without attending sessions on a face-to-face basis.
It is however, a different story when it is the holding of classes for basic education starting from Kindergarten, primary, elementary grades up to senior high school.
In a briefing for the President by his Cabinet held in Davao City during the week-end, the chief executive was openly appreciative of the recommendations laid by DepEd Secretary Briones as to the options that may possibly be adopted for the incoming school year.
The suggestions from the Education Department include holding of basic education classes through an on-line system, making use of the modular system, and the use of both radio and television as medium for teaching the students who shall remain in their respective residences.
But Secretary Briones was also frank in admitting that in all three options there are serious challenges that the government has to hurdle.
On the first recommendation the major challenge, according to Briones herself, is the huge lack of computers that each student can use for on-line interaction with their teachers. With most students in the public education system belonging to the disadvantaged sector of the population, the likelihood is that their parents will be unable to procure the required gadgets by these personal computers, laptops or tablets. Even the government admits it does not have enough resources to buy the gadgets enough for every student to use.
Another problem with on-line classes is the absence of internet connections in most places where the number of students are huge the rural areas.
As far as the use of the modular system of teaching, the first challenge that the DepEd will have to face is the production of subject modules enough to meet the requirements of the enrolled students.
Moreover, the DepEd may also be having problems with the parents who will be tasked to help their children understand the module, even to the point of administering periodic examinations to their student children.
Yes, we can be certain that the modular scheme is not quite acceptable to the parents. Let the DepEd be reminded that not all parents are educationally prepared to act as substitute teachers right in their own residences.
In fact we have talked to some five parents regarding the modular learning system and they did not have any qualms in admitting that they are not crafted for such a work. Besides, they told us, many parents are both working. And even if the female spouse is just a simple housewife they may be preoccupied with keeping watch of their other children or doing household chores. In addition, especially in the rural areas, a good number of housewives do not have the proper educational preparation to do the teachers job.
The parents we have talked to also jokingly, with some semblance of seriousness in the tone of their voice, asked us whether the DepEd will share the teachers salaries and allowances with the substitute parent-teacher. Well, the question raised appears to have clear sense.
Meanwhile, holding classes using radio or television as a medium for giving the lectures and instructions to students in the confines of their homes is also not without problems. And most affected are students in the hinterlands, in areas without electricity. And there are plenty of them.
DepEd, without doubt, will have a hard time monitoring the progress of the students using the radio-television classes. They do not have enough manpower to do the monitoring. And if ever manpower is available, they might face security and safety problems in visiting risk-laden places like areas where insurgency is still prevalent or accessibility is quite difficult.
But whatever the President will eventually choose from the DepEd recommendations we are certain that he is guided with the thought that his choice will be for the good of the most number teachers, parents and students.
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