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Visayas teachers hesitant about DepEd’s planned blended teaching

DUMAGUETE CITY –– While they support the postponement of face-to-face classes, several teachers in the Visayas have expressed reservations over the blended or distance learning approach which is being prepared by the Department of Education (DepEd).

Rico Tañesa, president of the Negros Oriental High School Teachers’ League and council member of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition, said teachers need more time and resources to get used to the new learning system.

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He said the time left between now and the slated opening of classes on August 24 is not enough for teachers to prepare for “blended learning.”

“Teachers must be given enough time to adapt. Our principle remains that no learner should be left behind,” Tañesa said in Cebuano.

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The DepEd, he said, should also take into account that a considerable number of public school teachers were nearing retirement age, and were having difficulty adjusting to online learning.

While webinars have been organized to train teachers on the blended learning approach, Tañesa said not all teachers have access to the new system.

Internet access

Even if they gain enough skills and confidence to facilitate online learning, he said another problem that teachers would have to face is the lack of access to a stable internet connection.

Tañesa also cited that some of his colleagues were already applying for loans to buy laptops for themselves, adding that the DepEd must also provide a new subsidy to help teachers cope with internet expenses.

Teachers in Negros Oriental were given P3,500 in “chalk allowance” so they can buy school supplies.

Tañesa also expressed his apprehensions on the possibility of tapping radio and television under the new blended or distance learning system, saying that it is not as effective as face-to-face learning.

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Broadcast tools access

He also cited that some areas in Negros Oriental, especially in his hometown Mabinay, do not have proper access to radio and other broadcast tools.

Distance learning means lessons will be delivered by teachers outside the traditional face-to-face setup.

In Leyte, school heads and teachers were wary about having virtual classes.

“There could be some effects among school children who need constant follow up on the academic side. Skills could not be well elucidated with the children,” said Imelda Gayas, school principal of the San Jose Elementary School in Tacloban City.

A secondary school teacher, who requested not to be named, said he was not in favor of virtual classes.

“Nothing beats a face-to-face kind of classes or teaching. Students need to be guided and how can we do it if we know that some or many of them do not have a computer of their own,” he said.

The teacher said the possibility that the parents and not the students would be answering the lessons is not remote. “This could result in poor quality among our students,” he said.

Enrollment

Based on the record of DepEd in Eastern Visayas, 236,613 students for both elementary and secondary levels had been enrolled as of June 8.

A 32-year-old parent, Mary Grace Bulay, a resident of Cebu City, supports the government’s plan to use blended or distance learning while there is still no available vaccine against COVID-19.

“It’s really hard for young students to practice physical distancing in school. The virtual mode of teaching is good while we are in a pandemic,” said Bulay who has a 6-year-old son.

She, however, expressed apprehension that students would not learn much through blended learning.

“They may think that they are just playing. Going to school to study is really different,” Bulay said.

For Max Montero, chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in Western Visayas, it would be better to suspend all classes, not just face-to-face learning, until a vaccine for the COVID-19 is developed.

He said resorting to online instruction, instead of face-to-face classes, would be disadvantageous to public school teachers and students. “The safety of teachers and students should be prioritized and we should postpone the opening of the school year,” Montero told the INQUIRER.

He said students, especially those from poor families, who cannot afford to own or rent computer devices and internet services, would be disadvantaged. “Will education still be a right for all, or only for those who have access to computers and can afford to go online?” he said.

Montero pointed out that many families are reeling economically from the pandemic, and requiring children to have online classes would be an additional burden.

He said public school teachers would also be burdened by additional expenses.

While the DepEd said that 87 percent of teachers have computers, Montero said this does not mean that the teachers are equipped to conduct online classes.

“Many of these computers that were acquired through loans are outdated,” he said.

Montero said teachers would also have to pay for internet subscriptions or services. “The DepEd said we can use our ‘chalk allowance’ for internet services but this is only P3,500 per year,” he said.

“We want classes to resume but we must ensure that it will be accessible to all and that no one will be disadvantaged,” he said.

Preparation

Montero said that while they have been continuously attending webinars on conducting online classes, there is still a lack of preparation as teachers have been told to design class modules on their own pending the release of materials from the DepEd.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier announced that DepEd is abiding with President Duterte’s decision to postpone physical classes until a vaccine against the coronavirus disease is available.

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TAGS: blended learning, Department of Education, DepEd, distance learning approach, face-to-face classes, Philippine news updates, Regions, Teachers, Visayas
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