Robredo echoes teachers' concerns on modular learning amid COVID-19 risks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday echoed the concerns of some teachers' groups regarding the lack of resources and health risks in printing and distributing learning modules, a day before classes start in public schools.

During her weekly radio show, Robredo shared the struggles of some teachers who have been burdened with the pressure of completing the distribution of printed modules, unlike the usual tradition of holding face-to-face classes.

"Every day nagka-crunch kami ng numbers sa opisina, tinitingnan namin from the numbers na nire-report ng DOH. More than 400 na LGUs iyong walang community transmission, so baka mas madali sana dito kung mag-devise ng design na face-to-face classes," she said.

[Translation: Every day, we crunch numbers in our office, we look at the numbers given by the Department of Health. More than 400 LGUs have no community transmission already, so maybe it would be easier to design face-to-face classes.]

Robredo also noted that while the DepEd is not yet open to allowing face-to-face classes for schools, teachers find it harder to resort to printed modules. She cited a group's call to instead provide gadgets for students as a more sustainable and practical tool for learning amid the pandemic.

"Mas hindi siya magastos in a sense na wala yung pang araw-araw na printing. Sa online [learning], karamihan walang gadgets," she lamented. "Kapag modular, sobrang pagod, sobrang magastos sa teachers. Dadalhin mo sa bahay ng estudyante, tapos magpi-pick up ikaw."

[Translation: You would pay less in a sense that there would be no need to shoulder the daily printing costs. In online learning, most of the students do not have gadgets. In modular learning, it would be more physicaly tiring and costly for the teachers. You have to deliver them to the student's households, then you will have to pick them up yourself.]

"In the long run, mas magandang bigyan ng gadgets ang mga estudyante kaysa araw-araw nagpi-print out ka ng mga modules nila," she said.

[Translation: In the long run, it's better to give students gadgets instead of having teachers print out modules for them daily.]

In a press briefing last Friday, Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said only 80 percent of learning modules have been distributed to students as of the third week of September. DepEd earlier said some public school students would have to share materials as funds for the provision of modules were cut under the proposed 2021 national budget.

More than 24 million basic education students have so far enrolled for the school year 2020 to 2021, with 22.5 million of them registered in public schools.

Due to the lack of gadgets or access to the internet, most of the students preferred printed modules as their alternative learning delivery mode.

In a statement last week, Teachers Dignity Coalition lamented the difficulty that teachers have to face in printing modules and shouldering the costs of other equipment.

"Printers have a thousand things that could go wrong so soon after purchase. And being 'personal equipment, repairs and parts replacements will have to be shouldered—yet once again—by teachers," the group said, noting that teachers themselves are also neither supplied with service laptops nor internet allowances.

In a separate statement on October 2, ACT Teachers Partylist called on the national government to follow the example of local government units to provide gadgets and internet allowances for students and teachers this incoming school year.

"Ilang araw na lang ay magsisimula na ang pasukan...estudyante, magulang at kaguruan pa rin ang magdurusa sa kung saan kukuhanin ang pambili ng gadget, pang-internet at pam-print ng modules."

[Translation: A few days ahead of school opening, students, parents and teachers will have to shoulder the burden of buying a gadget, reliable internet, and resources for printed modules.'

The ACT-Teachers Partylist also called on members of Congress to support House Bill 7620 or Makabayan bloc's SHIELD Bill, which seeks to provide ₱6.95 billion for devices for teachers and ₱50 billion for devices for students.

Classes in public schools will resume on October 5, Monday.