Senators express concern over DepEd’s preparedness for upcoming school year
MANILA, Philippines — Some senators on Thursday flagged “staggering” challenges facing the Department of Education (DepEd) as they scored the agency over its seeming lack of preparedness ahead of the upcoming school year that would begin in August.
This, after it was bared during the Senate basic education committee hearing on Thursday that the majority of public school teachers are still untrained for ICT-based teaching, self-learning modules have yet to be printed and that Deped has yet to make out which students have access to the internet, televisions and radios.
DepEd has been preparing for blended learning, which is a combination of online distance learning and in-person delivery of learning materials to the homes of the learners, for the reopening of classes on August 24.
Teaching with the use of radio and television will also be done for students who do not have access to a computer or the internet.
“Only 40 percent of our teachers are already trained. Kanina lumabas din wala tayong mapping o ginagawa pa lang natin yung mapping ngayon, and the printing of the materials, I was actually surprised that it would take 30 to 60 days to print. Then the budget is also another big issue, especially when you talk about connectivity and gadgets,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the committee, said.
(Only 40 percent of our teachers are already trained. We were also informed that we have yet to do the mapping or we are still doing the mapping until now, and the printing of the materials, I was actually surprised that it would take 30 to 60 days to print. Then the budget is also another big issue, especially when you talk about connectivity and gadgets).
“The challenges are quite staggering at talagang malaki po ang hamon na hinaharap ng Department of Education dito po sa paglulunsad ng distance learning natin,” he added.
(The challenges are quite staggering and the challenges being faced by DepEd are really significant in rolling out its plan for distance learning).
Among the senators who expressed concerns over DepEd’s preparedness was Senator Francis Tolentino, who questioned the agency’s ability to train all of its teachers for distance learning in time for the opening of classes.
“The figure is just about 40 percent of the total public school teaching population of more than 800,000. Malapit na po iyong August 24 school opening so paano po ito?” Tolentino asked DepEd.
(The figure is just about 40 percent of the total public school teaching population of more than 800,000. August 24 is just around the corner, how will we address this?)
“Kung ready na po iyong 40 percent, papaano po iyong 60 percent?” he said.
(If the 40 percent is ready, how about the 60 percent?)
In response, DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said the department aims to complete the training of all teachers by July.
Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay asked DepEd if it has already implemented a mapping system that would determine which learning modality would be appropriate for different areas in the country.
San Antonio told senators, however, that the “exact map is still a work in progress.”
“Part of what we’re doing now is to gather information as we proceed with the enrollment procedure, to really map which specific learning delivery modality would be appropriate to a specific group of learners,” he explained.
“Magkakaroon po tayo ng klarong picture before the school year opens, that’s part of the thing that we would do ‘pag available na po ‘yung data,” he added.
(We will have a clear picture before the school year opens, that’s part of the thing that we would if the data becomes available).
During the enrollment process, students would need to fill out survey forms that would determine whether or not they have the capacity to participate in online-based learning, according to DepEd Undersecretary Tony Umali.
But Binay underscored the need for DepEd to have the information now, stressing that this could help the department implement targeted training for teachers.
“Hindi ho ba dapat meron na tayong ganitong mapping kasi yung training na gagawin niyo sa mga teachers dapat angkop dun sa kakayahan ng lugar e. For example Bukidnon or Cordillera na mahirap ang signal so why would we train our teachers for an online way of teaching when alam naman natin na mukhang mahirap yung ganung kalse ng pagtuturo?” she pointed out.
(Aren’t we supposed to have this already? Because the training for teachers should be targeted to the area. For example, in Bukidnon or Cordillera where its hard to access stable internet signal, why would we train teachers there for an online way of teaching when we know that it’s hard to access signal in that part of the country?)
Umali then admitted that while DepEd has information on which of its schools have electricity, internet connectivity and computer laboratories, the agency has yet to collate data on which students have access to the internet or radios.
But he further assured that DepEd would have the said data at the beginning of July. Over 13.7 million learners have enrolled for the upcoming school year as of June 23, three weeks after DepEd opened its month-long enrollment.
“We expect this to grow in the next couple of days in the remaining days of June at makakaasa po kayo, we assure you na yung inaantay po ninyo…sigurado pong malalaman po namin ang sitwasyon ng ating mag-aaral,” he said.
(We expect this to grow in the next couple of days in the remaining days of June and you can count on us, we assure you that the data you’re looking for…for sure, we will be able to collect information on the situation of our students. Because
“We are getting there, so kung bibigyan niyo lamang po kami, siguro po Hulyo, malalaman po namin,” he added.
(We are getting there, so if you’ll just give us, I think by July, we will know).
Binay further inquired if modules that would be used in different learning modalities are now in place and if DepEd has already procured laptops and other needed gadgets for teachers.
Responding to this, Umali said DepEd has yet to print out self-learning modules for students who do not have access to the internet.
He also said that DepEd could not afford the procurement of laptops and gadgets for all of its teachers.
“The procurement ]of laptop for teachers’ , I don’t want to dwell on that because the budget that we have right now—as we all know for every expenditure, there should be a law and that law is the General Appropriations Act to authorize that particular expenditure—we don’t have funds to procure laptops or gadgets…to be used in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
According to Umali, DepEd is instead coordinating with local government units, which have committed to donate laptops and other gadgets for the use of both teachers and learners.
“We are engaging with the [Department of Budget and Management] and the [Department of Interior and Local Government] to make use of [the Special Education Fund],” he said.
Despite the concerns raised during the hearing, Gatchalian said the senators are in support of DepEd’s effort to implement distance learning amid an ongoing pandemic.
“Nevertheless, we are in support of the distance learning modality because we love our children, we want them to learn at naniniwala kami na kahit na ganitong may pandemya, dapat tuloy-tuloy pa rin po ang pagtuturo (and we believe that teaching our students should continue despite the pandemic),” he said.
“Pero it’s really a big challenge for DepEd to make sure that on or before, actually before August 24, dapat lahat po ng materyales po natin at ‘yung training ng teachers are in place already,” he added.
(But it’s really a big challenge for DepEd to make sure that on or before, actually before August 24, we should have the learning materials and training of all teachers in place already).
Gatchalian further said the committee would regularly monitor the implementation of Deped’s distance learning initiative.
Tolentino, for his part, also expressed gratitude for the work that DepEd is doing to ensure that learning continues despite the health crisis.
“Di po ko galit sa DepEd, napakalaki ng tulong ng DepEd. Nagulantang lang tayo sa laki ng problema,” he said.
(I’m not angry at DepEd, they have actually helped a lot. It’s just that we were shocked with how big the problems are).
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