‘Victory’ remark was meant for those pushing for academic freeze – Briones
MANILA, Philippines — Education Secretary Leonor Briones clarified on Monday that her declaration that the reopening of classes was a victory was meant for groups pushing for an academic freeze, or the suspension of the current school year.
Briones found herself at the end of criticisms after she said that the opening of classes, although online, was a victory against the COVID-19 pandemic.
This earned negative reactions from students groups whose members felt it would be better to forego the whole school year and focus on economic recovery and education accessibility first.
But during President Rodrigo Duterte’s late-night address, she clarified that it was a victory against proponents of an academic freeze.
“Senators, officials, and even small groups said that DepEd would not be able to continue with education while we were having intense debates on the coronavirus and the economy. And one debate involves education because there is a movement for a so-called academic freeze,” Briones said in Filipino.
“That’s why we are saying that your declaration that we should open classes on October 5, is a victory for the education sector because our opponents, who insist on an education freeze, want to close everything because DepEd and the government supposedly cannot handle it,” she added.
In her message for the opening of public school classes earlier, Briones clearly said that the country was declaring victory over the coronavirus and not the academic freeze calls by several sectors.
“We declare our victory over COVID 19–the Destroyer of our lives and Destroyer of our economy and of our society. But we will not allow COVID-19 to destroy our children’s education and their future,” Briones said.
“Today, we open our schools. Today, we claim victory over the destroyer (COVID 19). Let our classes begin!” the she added.
Several student groups — like the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) — said that there should be no celebration of any victory against the pandemic if the country was not faring very well.
CEGP Deputy Secretary-General Regina Tolentino noted that having a lot of students not enrolling due to inaccessible distance learning modes, with some school staffers going jobless due to low enrollment rates, was an indication that no victory was yet in sight.
“Can we consider this a victory? In spite of the millions of students who begged off from studying because they cannot cope with the new demands of distance education, even with a lot of workers losing their jobs because of school closures, can we consider this a victory?” Tolentino said in Filipino.
A lot of groups called for an academic freeze, or the suspension of the whole school year to allow families to focus on economic recovery and the health crisis.
The call for an academic freeze became the top trending topic on Twitter before due to the sheer number of students who either lack gadgets for online classes or who do not have stable internet connections for the distance and blended learning modes.
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