DepEd stands pat on Aug 24 opening of classes: Students want to learn

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) – The Department of Education rejected fresh calls to postpone the opening of classes under blended learning on August 24, saying pushing back the school calendar will work against students.

"While the dialogue is going on sa social media, as far as we are concerned, talagang August 24 ang target date [we're really sticking with the August 24 target date]," Education Secretary Leonor Briones said in a Monday media briefing.

"Kung masa-stuck tayo sa basic education, delayed din ang supply natin ng professionals na kailangan natin dito sa ating bansa... Ang mga bata, kung sila ang tatanungin, gusto nilang mag-aral talaga. Let us not wait na dadating ang panahon na wala na silang interes mag-aral," she added.

[Translation: If the children get stuck in basic education, it will also delay the supply of professionals which we need in the country... if you ask the children, they really want to study again. Let's not wait for the time when they are no longer interested to learn.]

Some groups are calling to push back the opening of classes anew, saying DepEd schools and teachers are not yet ready.

RELATED: 'It will work,' DepEd says on its readiness for 2020 class opening

But Briones said preparations are underway for the new modes of teaching, involving a mix of internet-based sessions, radio and TV broadcasts, and printed self-learning modules which will depend on the availability of technology in an area and the preference of the student.

She added it was time for the Philippines to resume basic education classes as neighboring countries have already done so, with Thai, Singaporean and Vietnamese learners even back inside classrooms.

The Philippines has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia at 129,913 as of Sunday, with 67,675 recovered while 2,270 died.

President Rodrigo Duterte has banned face-to-face classes until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed. Still, Briones said there was no point delaying the opening of classes as 22.9 million students are already enrolled for the new academic year. Further delays would also be detrimental to children, she added.

"May mga pag-aaral na nagpapakita na kung sobra-sobrang haba ang panahon na walang klase... kung lalampas tayo ng dalawang buwan, malilimutan ng mga bata kung ano ang itinuturo sa kanila," Briones said. "May mga pag-aaral din na nagpapakita na magkaroon ng problems ang mga bata kung prolonged na nasa bahay at hindi nag-aaral, you have problems of obesity."

[Translation: There are studies which show that if we extend the period without classes too long... if we take longer than two months, children forget what they are being taught. There are also studies showing that children will have problems when they stay home for too long without studying, they have problems of obesity.]

RELATED: DepEd working to make learning materials accessible to students with special needs

She added that delaying learning by as much as six months would delay personal development, as students will be deprived of social and emotional growth.

DepEd's National Kick-Off for the new school year was scheduled early morning featuring preparations done by teachers and staff at its SOCCSKSARGEN office, but had to be pushed back close to noon after technical issues marred the broadcast. Regional Director Dr. Allan Farnazo said glitches put them under two hours of "shame," but added that these challenges would allow them to prepare better once formal classes start.

Briones said most essential learning competencies from kindergarten to Grade 12 – or what must be taught to students – have been slashed from 14,171 to 5,689 to take into account the drastic change in learning strategies, but would not entail a major change in learning materials used by teachers.

DepEd officials added that public schools and regional offices have been allowed to use their existing maintenance and other operating expense budgets for COVID-19 response and for the printing of learning modules to be distributed to students. Materials are likewise available for download through DepEd Commons, an online portal for remote learning.

DepEd is likewise considering to hire teacher aides, who will assist full-time teachers manage virtual and off-site learning sessions.

RELATED: Volunteers, education grads may be tapped to aid students in self-learning