Despite calls to delay opening, classes to begin August 24

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(UPDATED) Education Secretary Leonor Briones has reiterated that classes will begin on August 24, 2020 without face-to-face learning sessions, despite calls to delay the opening of school year 2020-2021.

“Gusto lang naming ulitin, tuloy pa rin tayo sa August 24, formal school opening, ‘yun ang napagkasunduan, in-approve ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), in-approve sa Department of Education, at in-approve ng Presidente,” Briones said in a virtual press conference Monday, August 10, on the preparations being made by the Department of Education (DepEd).

Briones noted that only the Philippines and Cambodia have not resumed classes in Southeast Asia.

She said classes in Vietnam opened in May while classes in Singapore started in June. Most of the other Southeast Asian countries resumed classes in July.

As of August 9, however, Vietnam has reported only 841 coronavirus cases, Singapore has 55,104 and the Philippines has 129,913 cases.

Briones said August 24 is the last day allowed by law for the opening of a new school year in the country.

This will no longer be moved because there will be no face-to-face sessions anyway, she added.

In compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to delay face-to-face sessions until a vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) becomes available, DepEd will implement a mix of online learning, modular distance learning and TV/radio-based instruction.

“Itong August 24 ay pinakadulo na talaga ng what is legally allowed as opening of classes. Kaya ipagpatuloy natin ito. Puedeng ipagpatuloy kahit ano’ng mangyayari sa Covid (pandemic) dahil wala naman tayong face-to-face na mga sessions,” Briones said.

(We are going to proceed with the opening of classes on August 24 despite Covid because there will be no face-to-face sessions anyway.)

“Blended learning ang ginagamit natin at lahat ng mga bansa din sa Southeast Asia...lahat sila iba’t ibang style, iba’t ibang forms, iba’t ibang combination, iba’t ibang blending ng blended learning,” she added.

Under the blended learning scheme, limited face-to-face classes would have been allowed in areas with few or zero cases of Covid-19

With the prohibition against face-to-face sessions, however, classes will be conducted through distant learning methods. Self-learning modules will be made available in print or digital formats, according to DepEd’s learning continuity program.

Electronic copies of the learning materials may be delivered through CDs, DVDs, USBs, or offline e-books.

Learning materials will also be available through the DepEd Commons, an online platform that may be accessed for free through Globe or Smart, and through TV and radio stations.

Under modular distance learning, the teacher will monitor the progress of the learners via email, telephone, or text/instant messaging. A family member will need to serve as para-teacher.

In online distance learning, the teacher will serve as facilitator and engage learners through videoconferencing or live instruction. The learners may download materials, complete and submit assignments online, and attend webinars and virtual classes.

For TV/radio-based instruction, learning materials will be converted to video lessons or radio scripts.

Briones reiterated that classes must continue even during calamities because children have the right to education.

She said there have been studies that showed that if classes are disrupted by more than two months, learners tend to forget past lessons.

For the incoming school year, Briones said some 20.2 million learners have enrolled. They are all aware that their classes will begin on August 24, she added.

Youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) earlier called for an “academic freeze”, saying the blended learning scheme proposed by the DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education is “anti-poor.”

“We urge these government agencies to fulfill their mandate by siding with students, teachers, and academic and non-academic employees, instead of greedy capitalist-educators,” Spark said.

The group said the country’s students are “far from ready” for blended learning. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/Jove Moya/SunStar Philippines)


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