'Solutions, not suggestions': Teachers' group rejects DepEd's 'academic ease'

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
'Solutions, not suggestions': Teachers' group rejects DepEd's 'academic ease'
A public school teacher records a lesson for her class under DepEd's distance learning this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Nearly a month since blended learning for millions of Filipino students began, the education department has come up with suggested measures for an "academic ease," which a teachers' group scored as insufficient to address the existing problems under the new setup. 

DepEd pushed through with the reopening of schools in October, months since the lockdowns due to coronavirus pandemic cut abrupt the last academic year. 

This was despite calls from groups to postpone, citing challenges such as internet connection, gadget availability, and errors in resources only coming to light when classes had already begun. 

The agency's curriculum and instruction office in an October 30 memo presented recommendations aimed to "reduce stress and anxiety" which include allowing schools to identify activities in learning modules that could be made optional so students could put more time on the "most essential activities."

Part of the said measures is also expanding support for mental health or wellbeing of teachers and students through organizing "group wellness sessions," and easing on deadlines for submission of tasks.

DepEd has so far hired 3,200 learning support aides to assist in its blended learning. Under its push for academic ease, students having difficulties in modules should be given more attention by the LSAs.

"For example, a household may have at least two learners across different grade levels from K-12 who are academically challenged and may not be able to do the [learning material] activities independently. Such households may be prioritized for visits," the memo by Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio read.

But in a statement on Tuesday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said DepEd's move stopped short of giving remedy to the challenges of blended learning. 

"We don't need any more suggestions from DepEd," said Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general. "What we need are concrete provisions and measures that will once and for all resolve the issues with government's ill-equipped and underprepared remote learning program."

ACT, noting that such suggestions are no longer new, said the agency should instead put more funds to hiring support personnel who could take on the non-teaching tasks, as well as focusing on curriculum content that would aid students in "navigating their way amid and in bettering the grim situations in our communities."

"We urge Undersecretary San Antonio and other DepEd executives to show their sincere regard to the welfare and rights of their workers and learners and their commitment to education by employing substantive measures to meet our demands,” Basilio added. 

Latest figures from DepEd showed that more than 25 million students have been enrolled, with 22.7 million in public and 2.2 million in private schools. The agency has said that it will continue to accept late enrollees until November 21. 

DepEd recently adjusted its academic calendar as it notes that many are still adjusting to changes from the blended learning setup.

The first quarter of the school year has been extended to December 12, with the second quarter now set from January 4 to February 27, third quarter from March 1 to April 24, and the last from April 26 to June 11 of the new year.

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