Teachers' group lists requisites for 'quality education' amid COVID-19 pandemic

Teachers' group lists requisites for 'quality education' amid COVID-19 pandemic
Taguig Sanitation Office sprays a disinfectant solution at bus terminals and schools to contain the possible spreading of COVID-19.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:35 p.m.) — After the government heeded calls to postpone the opening of classes just ten days before they were originally scheduled to resume, a teachers group on Friday listed its requisites for quality education amid the novel coronavirus crisis.

"The decision is what's best for the country but will only go to naught if the requisites for the delivery of safe, accessible, and quality education will not be met," the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said.

"In the next weeks, not only DepEd but the whole of [President Rodrigo Duterte's] government must endeavor to resolve the many problems that make school opening...precarious to the stakeholders' health and counterproductive to the fulfillment of the people's right to education."

The group's Secretary-General Raymond Basilio further reiterated the group's list of demands which it said will ensure the delivery of "safe, accessible, and quality education" amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • contain the spread of the pandemic and address the economic crisis
  • address shortages in facilities, personnel and equipment in schools and implement comprehensive health measures to ensure the safety of schools
  • provide all resources necessary for distance learning modalities

"Finally, we enjoin the agency to hold genuine consultations to involve the stakeholders in the planning and preparation of education continuity," Basilio said.

Congressional hearings, social media as 'consultation' with stakeholders

DepEd's announcement came after Vice President Leni Robredo, senators, members of ACT and other stakeholders raised several concerns about the preparedness of the public education system to implement new distance learning protocols.

However, during a press conference Friday, Briones said she submitted a policy analysis to Duterte on August 8, recommending that he postpone classes.

This, even as DepEd the following Monday doubled down on August 24 being the "hard limit" for the resumption of classes.

"While waiting for the president to make his decision, we had to stick with the law which says schools can open the last week of August the latest," Briones explained.

The extra time will be used to produce modules for offline distance learning, only a little over 50% of which has been printed so far, according to DepEd.

Members of ACT last week claimed that teachers from other provinces had already begun creating and printing their own modules out of their own pockets in their rush to be ready for the previous opening date of August 24.

READ: Teachers' group to DepEd: Revise 'failed' blended learning plan or postpone class resumption

Briones also brushed off claims that her agency failed to consult with teachers and students, citing surveys conducted by DepEd as well as its social media account which she says receives messages from parents and teachers "all the time."

"There are many hearings in both houses wherein affected sectors all say their piece. So it cannot be said that there's no consultation," she added in a mix of English and Filipino.

She also downplayed the number of coronavirus infections among teachers, claiming that they were few and that their recovery rate was high.

ACT on Friday morning logged 131 teachers nationwide who have been infected with COVID-19 while DepEd during a Senate hearing said 598 individuals from its teaching and non-teaching staff have contracted the virus. 

Senators urge DepEd to use extra time wisely

Meanwhile, senators  welcomed the postponement of classes but urged DepEd to be sure to use the extra time to boost health protocols for students and teachers and to improve the quality of all distance learning modalities. 

Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri suggested that the opening date be pushed even further back to January. 

"Look at the experience of the [United States] where they opened face-to-face classes two weeks ago and now they have 100,000 new infections among young students," Zubiri said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

A joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association found that 97,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the US during the last two weeks of July. 

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs one of the Senate's committees on education, stressed that it is crucial that DepEd  improve the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) by completing self-learning modules and improving radio and television programs along with other modalities. 

DpEd this week drew criticism after social media users noticed grammatical and typographical errors in a multiple-choice question that it broadcast ahead of the opening of the school year. 

Briones said this happened because there was an error in encoding the material.

"Another crucial point I would like to emphasize is to give teachers assurance in terms of their welfare and health care needs, especially if they fall ill to the coronavirus," Gatchalian added. 

The senator said the success of BE-LCP's roll-out hinges on "on the confidence we inspire among our teachers by upholding their welfare." 

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Tolentino praised DepEd for heeding the calls of stakeholders, saying: "Listening to the voices of other sectors especially the parents, teachers and the LGUs paved the way for this appropriate and humane decision." 

"The extra days given DepEd should enable them to prepare more sustainably given the critical situation we are all in," he added. — Bella Perez-Rubio with reports from The STAR/Paolo Romero

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 28, 2021 - 8:13pm

Follow this thread for updates on when classes will resume, and how those classes will be conducted.

Photo: Students wearing protective face masks have their temperatures taken while entering their college campus in Manila on January 31, 2020. AFP/Ted Aljibe

September 28, 2021 - 8:13pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized limited face-to-face classes for the following programs: 

  1. Engineering and Technology programs
  2. Hospitality/ Hotel and Restaurant Management
  3. Tourism/ Travel Management
  4. Marine Engineering
  5. Marine Transportation

Commission on Higher Education Chairman Popoy De Vera, who made the announcement, said the authorization applies to "degree programs that require hands-on experience in higher education institutions under Modified General Community Quarantine."

September 27, 2021 - 3:32pm

WHO Philippines says it applauds the government's decision to approve the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative in the Philippines, says they will continue to work with the government, particularly the DepEd and DOH, to support safe in-person learning.

"very child has the right to education, & schools are central to children’s development, safety, & well-being. Prolonged school closures have a significant impact on their physical & mental health development, and their skills attainment and career prospects," Abeyasinghe says.

September 26, 2021 - 3:09pm

Father-of-two Shkelqim Kameni took his children out of school because of Austria's strict COVID testing for pupils and his opposition to the vaccine.

The 28-year-old shop manager from the western city of Salzburg is among a sharp rise in parents opting to homeschool instead.

Even weeks before the new school year started this month, the divisive issue garnered media coverage and has provoked heated exchanges online between parents.

Speaking to AFP at an anti-vaccine demonstration, Kameni said he was afraid that rigorous Covid testing created too much pressure in the classroom.

"Probably a child (who tests positive) will be mobbed... it's psychological abuse of children; it's child abuse," he said at the rally in downtown Vienna this month, attended by thousands.

More than 7,500 children have been withdrawn from school for this academic year, the education ministry says. — AFP

September 20, 2021 - 12:15pm

A return to classroom learning in some schools is closer to happening, with presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying the government has authorized face-to-face classes in areas where there is minimal risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The Department of Health and the Department of Education will assess the areas for potential pilot classes. Pilot classes will also need the endorsement of the local government unit and of parents and guardians of the learners who will be involved.

September 13, 2021 - 12:18pm

Classrooms in the Philippines were silent Monday as millions of school children hunkered down at home for a second year of remote lessons that experts fear will worsen an educational "crisis".

While nearly every country in the world has partially or fully reopened schools to in-person classes, the Philippines has kept them closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN says.

President Rodrigo Duterte has so far rejected proposals for a pilot reopening of primary and secondary schools for fear children could catch COVID-19 and infect elderly relatives. 

"I want to go to school," seven-year-old Kylie Larrobis told AFP, complaining she cannot read after a year of online kindergarten in the tiny slum apartment in Manila she shares with six people.  

"I don't know what a classroom looks like — I've never seen one." 

Larrobis, who enters first grade this year, cries in frustration when she cannot understand her online lessons, which she follows on a smartphone, said her mother, Jessielyn Genel. 

Her misery is compounded by a ban on children playing outdoors. — AFP

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