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DepEd eyeing school break ‘learning camp’

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
DepEd eyeing school break �learning camp�
Students return to their respective schools as in-person classes in Marikina City resume on March 9, 2023.
STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — A national learning camp is being planned to address learning losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but groups warn the additional work will deprive teachers of time to rest. 

The Department of Education (DepEd) is planning a learning camp of three to five weeks during the end-of-school-year break, set to begin next month.     

The learning camp will focus on “Enrichment and Intervention activities for Grades 7 and 8 Learners” as well as “Remediation Activities for K to 12 Learners” and a “Program Support Fund shall be allocated to the regional offices... based on the identified number of participating learners and teachers,” according to DepEd’s memorandum.   

But the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) says learning camps are not the solution to learning recovery.   

“Teachers are not machines,” ACT chairman Vladimer Quetua said.   

He explained that while the program is not mandatory, it deprives teachers “of their right to ample rest and time to recuperate from the grueling work of more than 10 months straight without sick leave nor vacation leave benefits, not to mention the increasingly shortened school break in the recent school years.”   

The group warned that DepEd’s program “can be even more detrimental to the well-being of our already overworked and burned-out teachers.”   

In a separate statement, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) maintained that teachers are entitled to the two-month school break since they do not have any paid vacation or sick leave.    

“While we understand the need for [a] measure to help students who encounter difficulties during classes, this should be done with utmost consideration to the welfare and rights of our teachers,” said TDC chairman Benjo Basas.   

DepEd Undersecretary for Curriculum and Teaching Gina Gonong assured teachers last month they will be given ample rest before the program starts, and service credits will be granted.   

Overload pay is still being studied.  

Back to June?  

Meanwhile, school opening should return to June now that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson urged.     

“The extreme heat experienced by teachers and students during the dry season, which is deemed not conducive to learning, and the students being unable to enjoy the school break because of the rainy season are the main reasons why we should change the opening of schools,” Singson explained.    

He filed House Bill 8508, which will bring the school opening back to June, as calls for its return surged after more than 100 students in Laguna were hospitalized due to hunger and dehydration during a surprise fire drill in March.

The heat index when the fire drill occurred was between 39 to 42 degrees Celsius.    

The former school calendar, which sets the school break from April to May, is “what suits our country best,” Singson said.

No struggling student left behind    

Intervention programs to help underperforming students catch up to their studies are being sought, after a report found “mass promotion” led to a lack of mastery in fundamental skills.    

The State of Philippine Education Report by the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) is referring to the “unspoken but common practice” of automatically passing students, and promoting them to the next grade level regardless of their competencies.    

“We should no longer continue the culture that just for students to graduate, they have to be passed, but they are not learning... We need to focus on how to help our teachers and students to ensure that no youth is left behind,” said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.    

Gatchalian explained that participants of PBEd’s report — 300 stakeholders including teachers and school leaders — misunderstood the “No Child Left Behind” concept, leading teachers to promote students regardless of their mastery of competencies.    

He stressed the need to assess and help students get through the learning loss caused by the pandemic. — Cecille Suerte Felipe, Sheila Crisostomo 

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