DepEd seeks more funds for ‘blended’ learning

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
DepEd seeks more funds for �blended� learning
The department will also have to expand the technical capacity of teachers to adopt new technology, such as by providing them with equipment and training to adapt to the new learning strategies.
STAR / Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — Education officials have asked lawmakers to increase the budget of the education sector to support programs to be implemented in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

While the exact budget requirement has yet to be released, Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary for operations Jesus Lorenzo Mateo said the expected changes in the education sector would require additional funding.

For instance, the DepEd will have to hire additional personnel to support the shift to distance learning in the coming school year, according to Mateo.

The department will also have to expand the technical capacity of teachers to adopt new technology, such as by providing them with equipment and training to adapt to the new learning strategies.

Providing teachers with their own laptops will already cost P23 billion, according to previous estimates by the department.

Mateo also cited the need to tap professionals and increase healthcare personnel in schools to ensure the physical and mental well-being of teachers and students.

“The situation would change,” he said in Filipino during the online edition of Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday. “For example, the communication expenses would increase.”

This week, the DepEd began implementing a remote enrollment system that requires teachers to reach out to their students through calls, text messages and online communication.

Teachers’ Dignity Coalition chairman Benjo Basas said the government should provide internet allowance now that online connectivity has become a requirement for teachers to be able to fulfill their responsibilities.

Mateo said they are meeting with telecommunications companies to be able to provide teachers with mobile and data subscriptions under a single account.

Last Monday, Education Undersecretary for finance Annalyn Sevilla said they have asked oversight agencies to allow them to provide additional allowances to teachers using the agency’s budget.

Sevilla added that public school teachers may also use their annual P3,500 cash allowance for communication expenses that they would incur during the online enrollment process.

Previously known as chalk allowance, it is intended for teaching-related expenses such as materials needed by teachers in classrooms.

With the changes brought by the pandemic, however, Sevilla said they are updating the guidelines to allow the use of the allowance “for any expense related to teaching.”

Basas also urged Congress to provide budget to hire additional nurses and doctors in schools as well as approve proposals to increase the compensation for guidance counselors.

Connectivity, assistance

At the same forum, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) executive director Cinderella Filipina Benitez-Jaro also requested for congressional support to increase connectivity nationwide.

While online-based education is just one of the several options that schools may adopt next school year, Jaro said creating more public hotspots would enable more students to access resources that they can use for their education.

“Increasing connectivity would entail expenses because there is information and communications technology infrastructure and daily (data usage) costs,” she added.

Jaro also reiterated their request for financial assistance to private school teachers and part-time faculty, particularly those who were not able to receive their salaries because of class suspensions.

CHED chairman J. Prospero De Vera III had said at a previous Senate hearing that 50,000 part-time faculty members from various higher education institutions need financial assistance as they are employed on a “no teach, no pay” setup.

‘Safe Schools’

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for a measure that would guide the reopening of all public and private basic education institutions in the event and aftermath of a calamity, public health emergency and other factors that disrupt classes in the country.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, yesterday said Senate Bill 1565 or the Education in the New Normal Act seeks to mandate the preparation of a Safe Schools Reopening Plan (SSRP) under the “new normal” in education.

“Under the ‘new normal,’ we want to have concrete steps to ensure continuous education while we take care of the safety and health of students, teachers and other education staff during a calamity or pandemic,” Gatchalian said.

“Our goal is to ensure the stability of the education system and that no student will be left behind during a crisis,” he added.

The SSRP identifies basic interventions and requirements in times of health-related emergencies, which will include cleaning and disinfection protocol in schools, the provision of public health supplies, preventive public health programs, teacher training on disease prevention and management, modified attendance policy for teachers and learners at risk, and monitoring and reporting protocols for affected learners.

Also under the proposed measure, mental health services, life skill classes and psychosocial first aid will be available to keep learners in school, especially those in conflict-torn areas. It mandates accessible and responsive services for learners with disabilities and other marginalized learners.

To ensure the continuity of learning, SB 1565 mandates schools to enhance their information and communications technology capacity and develop a hybrid learning system that utilizes alternative learning modalities such as homeschooling, online learning, radio- and television-based instruction and printed modules.

Broadcast-based learning

Meanwhile, a ranking lawmaker yesterday pushed for the use of government-run broadcast networks for an alternative learning system for 27.7 million basic education students in the coming school year while the nation continues to face the COVID-19 crisis.

House Metro Manila development committee chairman Manny Lopez has filed House Bill 6922 mandating government broadcast networks like PTV 4 and IBC 13 “to serve as open distance learning delivery modalities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Lopez explained that the proposed measure, titled Broadcast-Based Learning Act of 2020, aims to assist the DepEd in rolling out its Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan, which includes broadcast-based open distance learning in its learning delivery modalities.

HB 6922 specifically seeks to require all government-owned broadcasting stations to provide adequate free airtime for educational and instruction materials for all grade levels – two hours a day for six days a week from Monday to Saturday for general learning program and one hour per week for each grade level from kindergarten to Grade 12.

It tasked the DepEd to coordinate with the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board for its implementation.

Illegal sale of modules

The DepEd has warned the public about those who illegally sell free modules and learning materials online.

Education Undersecretary for administration Alain del Pascua said they are considering filing legal action against those taking advantage of the free learning materials released agency.

Many of those for sale were made available for free at the DepEd Commons website, according to Del Pascua.

Launched in March, the online platform serves as a resource portal where teachers and students can access training demos, exercises, quizzes and e-books.

“We are working non-stop – to create, check and curate all our content to make it more accessible to everyone, only for these people to use it for their own gain. We are warning these individuals that the DepEd will prosecute you,” Pascua said.

He also warned teachers and the general public to be wary of those being peddled as “authorized and official” DepEd workbooks, worksheets and Commons materials, saying such materials are still being quality assured by their Bureau of Learning Resources.

The DepEd also warned of groups and individuals charging fees for free webinars conducted by the agency.

Del Pascua said DepEd employees found to be engaging in such acts would be charged with appropriate administrative or criminal charges.

Incidents may be reported via email to [email protected] or through the different hotlines of the agency. Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edu Punay

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