Educational institutions urged to transition to flexi-learning
Quoting reports from the DepEd in 2018, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said there were 231,631 learners with disabilities enrolled in self-contained classes or those not part of regular classrooms. Enrollment records for the upcoming school year show that as of July 15, only 51,375 learners with disabilities have registered.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Educational institutions urged to transition to flexi-learning
(The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Bong Go urged the education sector to carefully consider the use of online platforms in facilitating education in the country and ensure that any resulting burden from the transition will not be passed on to students.

“Schools and education officials must guide students in order for them to adjust to new modes of learning,” Go said. “Make sure that all students will be given equal opportunity under the new learning plans in all levels of education.”

During a Senate hearing of the committee on higher, technical and vocational education, Go noted the consequences of the pandemic on education and expressed the need to look not only at government’s capability to adjust to these challenges but also the students’ resilience to adapt to the new norm of education – the online platform.

“Despite the current health crisis, our aim is to ease the burden for our students and also their families,” he added.

While the government offers free education in many state colleges and other vocational schools, Go lamented that many students are facing issues other than tuition which are intensified further due to the adverse socio-economic impact of the ongoing pandemic.

“Many of our students are poor and trying to get their education even with empty stomachs. Their situation is more difficult now with the pandemic,” he said.

“Amid the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, many in the tertiary and higher education are working students. They have to work to be able to get their education,” he explained.

Go urged concerned agencies to take these issues into consideration while trying to ensure that education continues despite the health crisis. “This is so that we can continue to improve our education system and bridge the gaps of learning without giving more stress mentally, emotionally and financially,” he added.

The senator reiterated that no traditional face-to-face classes should be conducted while there is still no vaccine for COVID-19, a stand similar to the President’s.

Go also repeated his earlier advice to provide flexible modes of learning with due consideration to health and safety protocols that must be followed so students can continue their studies without being overburdened with the use of online platforms and not waste one school year.

He lamented the lack of access to stable internet connectivity as a challenge to every Filipino in transitioning to the “new normal,” and also stressed the need to equip professors and teaching staff to be able to adapt to these new modes of teaching.

Meanwhile, with more that two weeks to go before classes officially reopen, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that learners with disabilities continue to receive access to therapies and other healthcare and rehabilitation services.

While DepEd preparations are underway to provide learning modules to learners with disabilities, Gatchalian emphasized that a comprehensive mapping and action plan are needed so that allied medical professionals, including speech, physical and occupational therapists, can keep providing services to these learners.

“Bringing these therapists and healthcare professionals to the homes of these learners is one way to deliver the much-needed therapies and support services,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.

He said health and safety protocols have to be strictly observed, however, to prevent further transmission of the virus.

In mapping out access to therapies and other healthcare and rehabilitation services, Gatchalian said DepEd should work closely with local government units (LGUs) who should also be tapped to provide transportation. The lawmaker also pointed out that the input of allied medical professionals is essential in the formulation of an individualized education plan, which identifies a learner’s academic goals in a year and how they can be achieved.

Quoting reports from the DepEd in 2018, Gatchalian said there were 231,631 learners with disabilities enrolled in self-contained classes or those not part of regular classrooms. Enrollment records for the upcoming school year show that as of July 15, only 51,375 learners with disabilities have registered.

According to Save the Children’s “Rapid Survey on the Situation of Children with Disabilities in the Context of COVID-19,” 48 percent of its 4,066 participants said they cannot access education services because of the pandemic. The same report said that loss of income and employment among the caregivers and parents of these children hampered access to clinics, healthcare and rehabilitation services.

Gatchalian is the author of Senate Bill No. 171 or the Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act, which seeks to institutionalize the provision of services and assistance to make quality education accessible to learners with disabilities.

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