DepEd official: Close to 4 million learners did not enroll for next school year due to COVID-19 crisis

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 12) — The number of out-of-school youth may increase by around four million next school year due to the COVID-19 crisis, an education official said Wednesday.

“Mayroon tayong extraordinary non-participation on account of COVID as of today that is about 4 million learners,” DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan told the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture during a hearing on blended education.

Asked by Senator Nancy Binay if this meant that around four million will become out-of-school youth, Nepomuceno answered, “yes, madam senator.”

As of August 11, over 23 million enrolled in public and private schools for calendar year 2020 to 2021, which starts in less than two weeks.

Malaluan said the enrollment rate is around 83.1 percent the of last year’s figure of 27.7 million.

The official said most or 2.75 million of those who did not enroll used to go to private schools. Meanwhile, over 1 million students who attended school in public basic educational institutions last school year have not registered for this coming academic calendar.

He added that 380,000 learners from kindergarten to senior high school levels transferred to public schools.

Malaluan pointed out that while their main focus right now is on those who have decided to push through with their education, they will also discuss in greater detail how they will address the issue of non-participation of millions of young people.

Malaluan said among them is finding ways to provide non-enrollees access to learning opportunities. He added they are also studying the possibility of promoting students to the next grade level.

“There are policy issues we have to discuss within the department,” he said.

“It is an extraordinary year for DepEd as far as the participation rate is concerned,” he added.

Move school opening

Despite calls for postponement, DepEd said that school year 2020 to 2021 will formally begin on August 24, but lessons will be delivered through the digital platforms, radio and television broadcasts and printed self-learning modules. The strategy is called blended learning.

Senator Win Gatchalian, chairman of the Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture recommended postponing school opening in areas that will be placed on modified enhanced community quarantine by August 19. Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna reverted back to MECQ due to the rising COVID-19 cases in these areas. This is in effect until August 18, unless extended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Gatchalian stressed that DepEd could reset the opening date because of Republic Act No. 11480, the law allowing the president to adjust the academic calendar during a state of calamity or emergency once suggested by the education chief.

The senator said the reason why legislators passed this law is to give the agency the flexibility to move the school opening in case the COVID-19 situation in the country got worse. He also noted that enforcing a strict quarantine policy in select areas means their condition is not improving.

Malaluan responded by saying he will convey the lawmakers' remarks and recommendations to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, explaining that he was not in the position to speak on behalf of their head on the matter.

Many Metro Manila schools to use online learning, but…

The basic education institutions in Metro Manila will use blending learning, DepEd-NCR Regional Director Malcolm Garma told the same hearing.

“We will use the printed modules as a default tool for our learning delivery. However, marami po tayong [many of our] divisions or cities in NCR will employ the digital platform with the use of gadgets provided by the local governments,” Garma said.

However, the commitment of LGUs is hampered by procurement issues, he said. He added that there may be delays in the delivery of the educational tools to learners as Metro Manila is under MECQ, where movement is limited, and perceived as risky.

As a fallback, learning materials are being prepared in case the gadgets do not reach the beneficiaries in time for school opening, he said.

Status of printed modules

Citing DepEd’s field units, Malaluan said that some schools in parts of the country are not 50 percent complete insofar as printing modules for the first quarter are concerned.

He said over 61 percent, or 132 out of 214 school division offices in all regions except the Bangsamo, are not halfway through printing of modules.

But he said their priority is to deliver materials that will be used for the first two weeks of classes. "Succeeding weeks shall be made available on a rolling basis," he said.

Formal classes shall begin in the third week as the first two weeks shall be devoted to debriefing activities and psychosocial interventions.

Supplemental materials

According to Malaluan, the department is also eyeing to deploy supplemental learning resources developed by their partner educators that promote independent student learning through their platform DepEd Commons.