DepEd strengthens health curriculum amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 31) — Mental health programs are very well integrated into the K-12 curriculum, Education Secretary Leonor Briones assured.

This, in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to the government agency last week to equip teachers and learners with basic health literacy skills to effectively respond to a pandemic.

During the “Handang Isip, Handa Bukas” virtual press briefing Monday, Briones said that the Department of Education (DepEd) only needed to strengthen its existing curriculum that focuses on mental health and preparedness of teachers and learners.

“Itong dalawang mandato ng presidente, ginagawa na ng Department of Education,” said Briones.

“Una yung sa mental health at psychosocial intervention, wala pa si COVID ginagawa na iyan. At tsaka yung health literacy, may bago tayong curriculum at naka embed iyan sa iba’t-ibang subjects ng ating mga bata from K-12,” she explained.

[Translation: These two mandates of the President are already being done by the Department of Education. First, the mental health and psychosocial intervention is already being carried out even before the COVID-19 pandemic. As for the health literacy, we have a new curriculum and that is embedded in the various subjects of our children from K-12.]

According to Briones, integrated in the extensive health curriculum are topics on nutrition, psychosocial well-being, environment, gender and reproductive health and even climate change.

Health literacy, however, will be given the utmost importance in the coming school year as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus disease that has already affected more than 220,000 people nationwide.

“Naging kaugalian na kasi ng Department of Education na tuwing may sakuna, threat or danger ay nagbibigay tayo ng psychosocial orientation at adjustments para sa ating mga bata at teachers. Ginawa natin yan sa Taal, sa Marawi so hindi naman bago yung practice natin,” she explained.

[Translation: It has been a practice in the Department of Education that every time there is a disaster, threat or danger, we provide psychosocial orientation and adjustments for our students and teachers. We did that in Taal, in Marawi, so that's not a new practice.]

In the last two months, the agency has begun inviting experts and counselors to help design programs that focus on psychosocial interventions for teachers, learners, staff and executives facing mental threats brought by the pandemic.

“Halos araw-araw may schedule tayo na webinar para sa iba’t-ibang grupo ng mga citizens na naghaharap ng mga psychosocial issues dahil sa threat ng pandemic na ito kasi talagang nakakatakot mag-plano at mag-predict ng mangyayari,” Briones said.

“Built-in talaga sa atin itong psychosocial interventions para hindi naman lumala at para magkaroon ng confidence ang ating kabataan. Pati ang ating mga teachers, lagi natin silang ni-reremind na huwag silang magpabaya sa mga sarili nila,” she added.

[Translation: Almost everyday, we have a scheduled webinar for different groups of citizens facing psychosocial issues due to the threat of the pandemic, because it really is daunting to plan and to predict what will happen. These psychosocial interventions are really built-in in order to prevent the worsening (of mental health) and to instill confidence among our youth. Even our teachers, we always remind them not to disregard their own well-being.]

With a little over a month left before the opening of classes, DepEd officials say several regions are already at the advanced level in terms of preparations and will soon begin distribution of self-learning modules.

As of Aug. 28, close to 24 million students have already enrolled in both public and private schools for the upcoming school year which equates to 86% of last year’s enrollment.