Lawmaker pushes for blended learning, better implementation of voucher program to address classroom backlog

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — Blended learning and an expanded program to assist eligible elementary students to pursue their secondary education in private schools can help address the country's classroom backlog, House Basic Education Committee Chair Rep. Roman Romulo said on Tuesday.

Classes resumed this month for 22 million students in the country as the perennial problem of classroom backlog continues, which is currently at 159,000.

READ: Public school students welcome new school year as gov't pilot tests decongested curriculum

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source on Tuesday, Romulo pointed out that even if the government increases the budget for building of classrooms, the problem of where to put them remains as there is already limited space.

He said it’s time for the Department of Education (DepEd) to incorporate technology in classrooms through the implementation of blended learning, he said. To support this, the lower chamber has passed the Public Schools of the Future in Technology Act, he noted.

“We ask DepEd in fact to start piloting distance learning for geographically isolated areas, just in case there is a typhoon because it really can’t be just a classroom and then you have a teacher with a regular board,” he noted. “I think there’s some technology that must be introduced to make it conducive to learning.”

Not only will this make education more accessible, but it will also decongest classrooms across the country, the lawmaker said.

Aside from this, Romulo said authorities should continue implementing the expanded Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) program, but they should make sure the quality of education is also maintained.

The GASTPE program aims to decongest public schools by providing financial assistance to eligible elementary students who wish to pursue their secondary education in private schools.

Romulo said that prior to the nationwide implementation of the K-12 program in 2016, DepEd distributed vouchers to students without properly assessing the quality of education of the private schools. This reflected in the results of the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), wherein the Philippines scored among the lowest in reading comprehension, mathematics, and science, he noted.

“We don’t want to fall into the same shortcomings that they did at that time,” Romulo said.

The lawmaker also told the DepEd to work with the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the conduct of school mapping to know the number of private and public schools per area. Through this, authorities will be able to know where students can still enroll.