[Statement] On the August 24 ‘new normal’ school opening: address the gaps and fulfill basic requisites first -ASSERT

On the August 24 ‘new normal’ school opening: address the gaps and fulfill basic requisites first

DEPED is poised on opening this school year on August 24 amidst confusion and disarray on the ground.

Parents are opting not to send their children to school pending vaccine and assurance of safety against the contagion. Teachers and school heads could not answer the queries of parents and students about the details of the ‘new normal’ and multi-modal learning that DepEd is announcing. The August 24 opening is anchored on so many questions and uncertainties.

The date is incidental. When do we really say ‘we are ready?’ DepEd should make clear its benchmark and accomplish it. Uncertainty hangs over because DepEd pronouncements are not substantiated. Nothing is moving on the ground.

How do we insure the health protocols in schools? How would social distancing be implemented? Will there be shifting of classes? Do we get more teachers and have more classrooms to meet the 15 – 20 class size?

When 61% of 23 million households have no internet connection and 74% of the 47,013 schools have no internet access, how do we proceed with the online learning?
What infrastructures should be put up for the multi-modal learning? What do we do in areas with no electricity and no internet? How would rural population fare in multi-modal?

What trainings of teachers should be accomplished for online and digital tools? When would they be trained? What orientation and training should be given to parents so they are equipped in assisting in the home learning of children?

What is the plan for small private schools which have been complementing the government’s task of providing education and could no longer cope up with the demands of maintaining their schools?

Two months have passed but to date, there is no clarity yet on how to move forward. It is only now that DepEd is conducting survey among teachers, students and parents. DepEd’s responses to queries are so vague and all the more left us groping in the dark.

With these uncertainties, we support the plan of Senate Committee on Basic Education proposal to amend the law declaring August 24 as the latest day allowed for a school year to open. But this move should be back up by clear cut targets and standards on when to declare ‘we are ready.’

At the minimum, it is crucial that the following be addressed asap:
1. Conduct mass testing for teachers.
2. Speed up the requisites for multi-modal learning (broadcast platforms like radio and television, internet among others).
3. Build the needed infrastructure – internet connections and electrification of all schools in remote provinces.
4. Provide teachers with required gadgets and equipment – laptops and computers, digital notebooks and tablets.
5. Conduct massive and intensive teachers’ training on online platforms, digital tools and other alternative modes.
6. Trim the curriculum to focus on the core subjects and core competencies.
7. Develop and enhance the alternative learning system (ALS) as venue for learning and mechanism for moving up to higher level.
8. Encourage cooperation and partnerships among schools and local government units especially in putting up educational infrastructures.
9. Clinch support and sponsorships from private corporations engaged in digital tools, internet providers, telecommunications and social media entities.
10. Provide realistic and accessible mechanisms to engage organizations of all stakeholders: teachers, students and parents in reshaping education.
11. Ease the economic burden of teachers so they can be effective partners in reshaping education: a) give social amelioration for teachers of private schools affected by no work-no pay policy and all teachers who have become the sole bread winners; b) provide hazard pay to teachers.
12. For budgetary requirements, appropriations for debt payments could be realigned in favor of education needs.

The pandemic forced DEpEd to usher in innovations that should have been made years before. Now, it should get its act together and step up to decisively address all the gaps and inequities.

In ‘new normal’ education, the challenge is still the same – provide ‘education for all’ and make sure that ‘no one is left behind.’

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