MANILA, Philippines—Some 100 employees of the Department of Education (DepEd) took their positions in front of telephones and computers on Monday to answer queries and complaints from parents and students ahead of the opening of classes.
Many of the queries, according to members of DepEd’s Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) Information and Action Center were about school transfer problems and increased fees.
The action center’s telephone hotlines are 6361663, 6331942, 6340222, 6364880, 6350552, 6374211, 6356550, 6387529, 6359817, 6387530 and 6373743, while the SMS service is 0919-4560027.
It can also be reached through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The action center was set up at the DepEd central office in Pasig City. Similar centers will be operational in 200 regional and provincial offices in the country, DepEd officials said.
“We want to ensure the smooth opening of classes by encouraging all our stakeholders to voice out their concerns,” Jesus Santiago, DepEd assistant secretary for planning, said in a press briefing.
The action centers will operate from May 30 to June 10.
Kristine Sionson of the DepEd engineering office said many parents called to ask how to transfer their children from private to public schools.
“They’d like to know what to do. For example, when a private school has closed down and the credentials needed for the transfer are not immediately available,” Sionson told the Inquirer.
She said the DepEd also welcomed complaints about schools charging unnecessary and redundant fees. “It’s either we forward them a copy of the provision prohibiting these kinds of fees or we elevate the case to the DepEd’s administrative office,” she said.
Meanwhile, the DepEd is tapping volunteer teachers and day-care workers to fill the teacher shortage in its mandatory kindergarten program which starts in June.
Education officials admitted at the press briefing that the kinder program is facing a shortage of teachers estimated at 8,000.
“There’s a gap. We want to achieve the ideal 1:25 ratio of teacher to pupil… so we are encouraging more volunteers and daycare workers to teach kindergarten,” said Jesus Mateo, DepEd assistant secretary for planning.
The expanded public kindergarten program is part of the government’s K+12 (Kindergarten plus 12 years) program, which adds two more years to the 10–year basic education cycle.
The DepEd cited recent studies showing that kindergarten prevented early dropouts in elementary school.
Mateo said the DepEd has been busy training volunteer teachers, most of whom had passed the licensure exam for teachers. They will be given a monthly allowance of P3,000 for working one shift a day while some will be assigned two shifts so they will receive P6,000 a month.
Tonisito Umali, DepEd assistant secretary for legal and legislative affairs, said kindergarten classes could be held in two shifts a day. “We are telling the parents not to worry even if there’s a lack of teachers and even classrooms. We are finding a way to solve it and we assure them we won’t turn enrollees down,” Umali said.