Briones says entire education sector under ‘very intense’ pressure
MANILA, Philippines — Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Monday lamented the constant criticism hounding the agency, saying that the whole education sector is under “very intense” pressure as the country shifts to distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It is not only the learners, but also teachers, Department of Education (DepEd) officials and executives, who are “suffering” with the challenges of adjusting to the new normal, Briones said in an online press briefing.
“It’s not only dealing with the physical dangers of pandemic, it’s dealing with the psychological requirements. Tapos you are surrounded by criticisms, you are surrounded by discouraging news. Whatever you try to do is hardly noticed at all and to keep on, that’s a huge challenge for education,” she said.
“The pressures are very, very intense as you can imagine,” she added.
Before this, Briones was asked regarding DepEd’s efforts to strengthen its mental health curriculum.
Aside from helping learners cope up with the changes of the learning system, the education chief said DepEd is also engaging with professionals to help teachers as well as officials go through the “challenging” situation brought about by the pandemic.
“Dati ang focus ng ating atensyon, of course, is the learners lalu na kung may sakuna, merong earthquake at saka ngayon, itong COVID-19. Kailangan i-build up yung kanilang capacity to deal and to accept the change,” she said.
“This time, we are putting also additional emphasize on the upskilling of teachers themselves…not only ang teachers ang binigyan natin ng ganitong klase ng upskilling but also our policy makers, our program coordinators, meron tayong for the executives,” she added.
According to Briones, different segments of the education sector are facing different types of pressure as the Philippines shift into distance learning.
“All levels. From learners to teachers to the executives themselves. Ang tama sa edukasyon napakatindi because of the changes and the schedules. You’re dealing with humans ranging from children to people who are nearing retirement and it’s not only the pandemic, it’s the requirements to survive the pandemic,” the education secretary said.
“That means a different way of teaching, different combinations of learning modalities, different skills that are needed. Mas matindi ang pressures at this time on all of us, including myself,” she added.
She said learners are having a challenging time with having to adjust to the idea of a different type of schooling.
Meanwhile, the pressure teachers are facing are “very, very different.”
“Aside from the constant fear which is always of catching coronavirus, there is also the pressure to upskill and to learn new ways of teaching,” Briones said.
“Nagwa-widen yung groups of people whom you have to deal with. You have to deal with local governments, with the parents and, of course, you deal with the DepEd officials,” she added.
For education administrators, Briones said they are under pressure to deliver and formulate plans and programs to address different needs of schools across the country.
“You will notice that when they make the presentations of the dry runs, iba’t-iba talaga, walang magkapareho,” she said.
“And then the pressures of the policy makers, the policy implementers, the ones who guide the directions. The constant criticism. The constant kantsaw, the constant mura. You have to be very, very strong to be able to continue and to believe in what you are doing,” she said.
“It’s a very tremendous kind of pressure and the most difficult as far as in the policy making is the cruelty, the viciousness, which we have to deal with,” she added.
Briones also disclosed that executives, during some of their meetings, share with each other their “anxieties and fears.”
“It’s not only the learners, it’s everybody amidst a political, social and economic environment, which is not necessarily encouraging or even inspiring,” she said.
She further decried the criticism being thrown at the DepEd leadership over its policies.
“Kasi para bang: ‘I am a taxpayer, therefore impress me. Tell me what you are doing, you are this, you are doing that, ah that is not enough. Impress me some more, tell me some more, what are you doing, what are you not doing?’ Is there a kind word? is there a word of encouragement?,” Briones said.
“Parang nothing that we ever do is ever enough, nothing that we ever think about or produce is ever satisfactory, in a very short period of time, six months, you overhaul the entire educational system, and it is not enough,” she added.
The opening of classes was initially scheduled for August 24, but several lawmakers and groups urged the DepEd to postpone the start of classes in order to prepare more with the transition to blended learning.
Public and private schools were instructed to use various alternative learning modalities such as but not limited distance or online learning, and homeschooling.
Lessons for Kinder to Grade 12 students will also be made available on DepEd TV, DepEd Radio, and can be downloaded from DepEd Commons.
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.
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.
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