Robredo to DepEd: Clarify distance learning requirements before classes open
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to clarify its directives in the distance learning mode, and attend to several concerns like internet connectivity, logistics, and health issues as school opening nears.
In a letter to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, a copy of which was provided by a source to INQUIRER.net on Wednesday, Robredo said that several teachers, educational experts, and parents themselves have informed them about concerns on the distance learning and modular system mode.
One of which is the lack of operational directives given to teachers who would implement these learning systems, which were adopted to limit possible coronavirus transmissions.
“National leadership has been clear that our education system will shift to distance learning or blended learning given the pronouncement that no face-to-face instruction would take place until a vaccine is available. However, the lack of clear operational directives on such a mode of education has yielded concerns from teachers who are tasked to implement it,” Robredo said in her letter.
“For example, multi-modal learning ensures that those who do not have access to the internet continue learning despite the restrictions we currently have. It is noted that these modules are now available in the DepEd Commons. However, there is a need to cascade information in a more efficient manner given that some teachers […] have yet to receive these modules,” she added.
Robredo also mentioned that there are 14 million households still without internet connectivity, while most public schools cannot switch to an online learning mode due to limited infrastructure.
“Data shows that 61 percent or 14 million households do not have access to the internet. Moreover, 74 percent or around 34,700 schools do not have the infrastructure to engage in online learning,” the Vice President noted.
“It seems evident that the front-end domino to responding to these challenges is access to the internet. Perhaps, it would be prudent for government to devote significant resources in setting up internet hubs in schools and communities, so that the gaps would be addressed,” she claimed.
This is not the first time Robredo spoke or gave suggestions on the shift to a distance learning mode. As early as May, she asked government to ensure that online classes would be inclusive, meaning students and teachers regardless of financial and social status can join the discussions and classes.
Then just this July, she asked government to put internet hubs on every barangay so that students who do not have the capacity to purchase sophisticated internet gadgets can have access to online classes.
Online classes are not new in the Philippines, but the whole educational system shifting to distance learning is still uncharted territory. Last June, youth groups warned that enrollment rates would drop if the government does not fix systems needed for distance learning modes.
It was also during this time when photos of teachers in Davao de Oro in Compostela Valley went viral after they were seen camping by the roadside just to get sufficient data connection.
But as of July 30, DepEd said it has reached the target enrollment rate of 80 percent of 2019’s students, or 20.84 million public school students.
Robredo also mentioned other issues in her three-page letter, like testing educators for possible coronavirus infection, assisting COVID-19 positive teachers, ensuring the provision of personal protective equipment, and the disbursement of hazard pay.
Recently, DepEd admitted that it has not allocated any budget for the treatment of teachers who would contract the coronavirus.
She also asked DepEd to tap unused funds in 2019, as Senator Panfilo Lacson said, as well as to use the budget allocated for new buildings to procure needed gadgets and support needs for a modular learning system like printing expenses, and other logistic costs.
“Around P29.5 billion was earmarked for the rehabilitation of school buildings for 2020. Given the shift to distance learning, many of these school buildings will be left without children to occupy them, thus deprioritizing the need for the rehabilitation of physical spaces,” Robredo said.
“This amount can be used to procure the needed gadgets and equipment for distance learning, as well as address the health concerns of educators,” she added.
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