Despite shortage in classrooms, DepEd says all systems go for face-to-face classes

Despite shortage in classrooms, DepEd says all systems go for face-to-face classes
Teachers and parents finalize classroom preparations in Malanday Elementary School in Marikina City, a week before the school year 2022-2023 officially starts on Aug. 22, 2022.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education is standing pat on its plan to push for face-to-face classes starting this week, in the face of what it says are major challenges still hampering the education sector.

At the first organizational meeting of the Senate basic education panel Friday morning, Vice President Sara Duterte, concurrently Education Secretary, assured lawmakers that schools are ready for the re-opening of schools around the country starting Monday.

"We continue to study the implementation of blended learning as a permanent mode of instruction but come November 2, full implementation of face-to-face classes is expected for all public and private schools," Duterte said at the hearing.

"Regardless of alert level in any area, classes will continue," Education Undersecretary Epimaco Densing also said.

Concerns abound days before start of classes

Densing at the meeting Friday admitted that one "major challenge" facing the department is the projected shortage of around 91,000 classrooms nationwide — a number that would be good for some 10 percent of the classroom requirement in the country — mostly coming from schools hit by calamities.

Another apprehension that Sen. Nancy Binay, who joined virtually after testing positive for COVID-19, raised was the mixing of vaccinated and non-vaccinated students inside classrooms. Densing said there was nothing in the DepEd's rules that segregated students according to their vaccine status.

"The general rule is the face masks are already part of the students' school uniforms before they go to class," Densing said in response. "If their masks break or if they forget, there should already be reserves in the schools."

But Binay raised issue with the lack of dialogue with students' parents on what the new normal will look like inside classrooms before classes actually start.

"It's an apprehension they have, and we need to teach parents to be more confident about letting their children go to schools," she said in mixed Filipino and English.

Lawmakers also asked about private schools feeling the bite of the coronavirus pandemic, the most recent of which was the Colegio de San Lorenzo. The Quezon City school suddenly decided to close its doors for good on what was supposed to be its very first day of classes.

Legislative agenda

As for Duterte's plan to push mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps or ROTC, Densing said that the department was in talks with the Commission on Higher Education on whether to return mandatory ROTC in senior high schools or in the higher education institutions only.

Densing also said that the Philippines is the only country in the world that has three government agencies focusing on education in the DepEd, CHED, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority as he asked lawmakers to come up with legislation to rightsize the bureaucracy in the education sector.

In presenting the DepEd's priotity legislative agenda, Densing also said that it was the department's intention to shift the initial language of instruction in learning from the mother tongue to English and Filipino, possibly through legislation. He said this was in line with directives in the State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

"We all know there are certain areas in the country, especially in the far-flung rural areas that many of the communities including their children are not introduced to English and Filipino, thereby using the mother tongue as their initial language," he said.

"We can use the mother tongue as the initial language of instruction in that area, but in major areas, in highly-urbanized cities, I would think we can already start using English and Filipino as the media of instruction and the mother tongue as the exception to the rule."



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