Teachers and students are not guinea pigs – no one deserves to be.
Considering the conflicts of areas under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), schools are making a difficult decision to say yes to limited face-to-face classes – not because it is something wanted, but because it is something needed, especially to provinces and remote islands suffering from limited resources and connection.
Wednesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte shared a meeting with Education Secretary Leonor Briones over a press briefing on PTV-4. Briones discussed about other Southeast Asian countries adapting to the blended-learning system considering face-to-face classes with secured required health standards, in which DepEd already released a guideline on. The secretary even emphasized many Filipinos asking for such classes.
Featured on CNN Philippines on the following day, an interview with Nelia Ullagon, Head Teacher of Pacdal Elementary School, (elementary school in Nueva Vizcaya in the town of Ambaguio, a 5th class municipality) reveals the hindrances students are about to face considering distance learning. The area is said to have a weak signal and limited resources (gadgets), even the dorm which students preferred to stay on runs down already. The Head teacher even gave the statement: “Most of the parents of the students are poor.” Ullagon expressed how challenging education could be during this time of distance learning.
With the climbing number of students enrolling more in public schools than private schools, everything should be carefully planned to match the necessity of every learner in every area. DepEd’s data shows as of Friday, July 17, 2020, there are already 21,344,915 enrollees in basic education for the combined public and private schools for School Year 2020-2021. 88% of the enrollment which is 20,147,020 represents public schools.
The main point here is not really the argument whether to push through face-to-face classes or not; it is all about the insufficiency of support needed by remote islands and provinces which has poor resources and connection.
We could remember how Malacañang addresses the official statement about face-to-face learning, “no vaccine, no classes” in which the Department of Education clarified the adaptation to different learning modalities as a way to continue the school year, upholding the brand “Sulong Edukalidad”. Right then, House basic education committee chair and Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo suggested the implementation of face-to-face classes in areas with no confirmed COVID-19 infections, preferably at remote islands and provinces.
This came to study and conferences made whether to deal with the limited face-to-face classes or not.
Almost all ASEAN countries have adjusted to the limited face-to-face classes, such as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia (as reported by Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA) Managing Director Joseph Noel Estrada said at a Senate hearing.) While some countries consider a delay in the opening of classes until the year-end, institutions and schools are made prepared to respond to all the necessities and required health standards before the execution of organized plans.
This preview of unity, efficiency, and flexibility of other countries show the possibilities that we can also do. It would do well to respond to the structure of our allied countries, but we must also carry out the responsibility of assuring an effective and organized plan for the sake of everyone, especially the students.
We cannot risk the safety and security of students and teachers just so we can be called on to sustainability of standards. Promoting education should also prioritize preparedness and sufficient support as a whole – which means to address conflicts of every school, in every area, mostly of remote islands and provinces beseeches need to be helped.