DepEd pushes school opening to October

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2020 - 12:00am

El Presidente must realize that the Department of Education has a systemic problem. He must also consider that for every delay, a good number of students will drop out each day.

With the machinery, budget, support and power of government, I cannot understand why the Department of Education did not meet the deadline. What happened to the confidence Secretary Briones showed us these past months? She seemed determined and unfazed.

When DepEd’s pilot run happened last week, it just opened a can of worms to the nation. First, their administrative system for online education registration is clearly not in place. Second, transmission of online education, whether it be face-to-face (in some regions), broadcast via television or radio, online or blended, is still iffy. Third, planning of curriculum and content is very poor. Fourth, there seems to be no vision on the objectives set for online education.

As the adage goes, “actions speak louder than words.” I think Secretary Briones got a double whammy last week. With such a big bureaucracy, it will be difficult for her to take control and call the shots. Sure her regional heads can hear her but will they follow? Will they interpret her instructions the way she would like them to do?

We are talking of millions of public school children nationwide who have been out of school since March. What has the department been doing since March? By now all systems should have been a “go” for Aug. 24. Sad.

The reality that we face today in the field of education is daunting. The department should have stepped up to save the children. We know that keeping them at home for so long is not good. Save the Children organization has warned us of an “unprecedented global education emergency,” where more than 1 billion children around the world are out of school due to the pandemic and almost 10 million children may never return to school following the COVID-19 lockdown.

My understanding is that the department even slashed 60 percent of the curriculum to adjust to remote learning. So, they have 40 percent of the curriculum left to contend with. But why couldn’t they meet the deadline? Personally, I disagree with the 60 percent slashing of curriculum content. It will not help this generation progress at all. They should have maintained 60 to 80 percent. This is making it very easy for the teachers and will definitely create a detrimental effect to the students’ future and, ultimately, our country.

By the way, how will DepEd create its own material for public broadcasting system? I don’t even think it accepted the offer of ABS-CBN’s sister company, the Knowledge Channel. With ABS-CBN’s experience and expertise in the field of media production, I am sure this venture would have worked. It will get DepEd’s job done in half the time.

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Television as an educational tool can be very effective. But it takes a good production team to create good content and smooth transmissions. I remember my mother (a progressive educator who brought the Montessori system to the Philippines), Dr. Preciosa Soliven, produced an educational television show called Montessori for the Home and Montessori for Everyone during martial law. It was widely telecast in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao on ABS-CBN Channel 2. Directed by Maria Montelibano, it was shown three times a week. As she hosted the show speaking English, it was simultaneously translated to local dialects for the local stations. Out of 400 shows, it ranked 17. In that show, she demonstrated her Montessori preschool and grade school lessons. Children and parents from different socio-economic levels were able to benefit from the show. Even the market vendors would watch her and send her letters wanting more.

What is my point? When Secretary Briones mentioned television a few months ago and when El Presidente doubted her, I had a light bulb moment. I believed and was excited about this endeavor, having grown up in such an environment. My mother would bring me along with her to the studio everyday. She would even use me to demonstrate childcare and show her audience what children are able to do in order to maximize their potentials. Day after day, I checked the latest news from DepEd about education through television. But it seemed to have died down. This could have been a breakthrough, a turning point in the field of education for the country.

You know when you have private citizens who are very eager to help for a cause, like to help the children come right out of the dark, why stop! Or why give up on a dream. When ABS-CBN offered its Knowledge Channel to DepEd, what became of it? David Lim, CEO of My Solid Technologies & Devices Corporation, gave a concrete proposal for online education but it seems to have landed on deaf ears. The PLDT-Smart group headed by Manny Pangilinan is working 24/7 trying to strengthen its cables, creating new lines and even giving out 4G and 5G devices just to get things going.

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Speaking of our internet capability in the country today to serve all our online needs for education, business, banking and home use – I’m glad President Duterte directed all local government units to cut down on the red tape and allow our telcos to create new lines for faster service. Unfortunately, our LGUs, specially in the provincial areas, are very slow in responding. I really don’t know what’s going on. At a time like this when internet becomes the lifeline of our daily needs, why are mayors not accelerating the permits for the telcos to establish good sites in their areas? Sanamagan!

Of course, our telcos are challenged with an influx of subscribers nowadays, the continued lockdowns not to mention the national and local red tape. Some city ordinances should also be restudied to give way to the urgent need of fiber optic or network installations.

A few weeks ago, I became super anxious about our internet services. So, I asked PLDT-Smart what they are doing. This is what I learned: (1) PLDT is expanding the capacity of its data center network which is the largest in the country. The data centers improve the quality of internet services; (2) By mid-2020, the total footprint of PLDT’s fiber optic network grew 11 percent from end-2019 to about 358,000 kilometers – the most extensive fiber network in the country; (3) It has extended the reach of its fiber broadband service to over 7.8 million homes passed by mid-2020, up 8 percent from end-2019. The total number of available fiber ports available for the use of customers increased by 5 percent to 3.67 million; (4) It is expanding and modernizing its international cable network as it joins an international consortium building a 9,400-km long submarine cable system that will link the Philippines, China, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam when completed in 2022. Such investments are vital because the bulk of internet content used by Filipinos comes from overseas. When Luzon was placed under quarantine in March, PLDT boosted the capacity of its international cable system by 65 percent to improve internet services; (5) Its stability and strengthening network systems have consistently won for the past years the fastest internet speed awards from international internet rating firms like Ookla and Opensignal.

So, there! We have private entities willing to help and be of service to the country. Isn’t it time for government to wake up to the call of duty? Abangan!

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