Sotto urges DepEd to formulate flexible tuition payment terms amid quarantine

Robie de Guzman   •   June 9, 2020   •   265

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to formulate a “flexible” tuition payment scheme that would help parents whose sources of income were affected during the community quarantine due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The DepEd should come out with more flexible payment terms so students can continue to enroll for this school year. Some families have experienced losses because of the lockdown,” Sotto said.

“Private schools should be more accepting of proposed different payment schemes which are more affordable to parents who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdown,” he added.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier reported that millions of workers have been displaced in recent months after business owners were forced to either close shop or reduce their workforce due to the strict quarantine regulations.

In May, DOLE estimated that 10 million workers could lose jobs this year due to the public health crisis.

Sotto said schools should allow the staggered payment of tuition under longer terms to give parents more time and opportunity to save money to pay off the cost of sending their children to school.

“Makatutulong ng husto kung pahahabain ng mga paaralan ang panahon ng pagbabayad ng mga school fees upang magkaroon ng mas mahabang panahon ang mga magulang para magawan ng paraan ang kanilang ipambabayad para sa pag-aaral ng kanilang mga anak,” Sotto said.

Enrolment for basic and secondary education in public schools is ongoing.

The DepEd has announced that the Academic Year 2020-2021 will open on August 24 and close in April 2021.

Public and private schools and learning institutes nationwide have been encouraged to use available distance learning, e-learning, and other alternative modes of delivery instead of face-to-face classes so as not to risk the health of students.

Gatchalian wants probe on quality of DepEd’s lessons for distance learning

Robie de Guzman   •   August 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for a Senate inquiry on the content of lessons to be used by the Department of Education (DepEd) for its distance learning program.

Gatchalian issued the statement on Friday after DepEd drew criticisms over some of its episodes containing grammatical and typographical errors.

DepEd started its test broadcast of television episodes on state-run Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) and Solar Learning. However, photos showing a Grade 8 lesson went viral as netizens slammed what some described as “painful” errors in the lesson.

While DepEd already acknowledged the errors and vowed to make improvements on its TV broadcast content, Gatchalian stressed that quality control should not be compromised amid the rush to make learning resources available when classes open.

“We’ll probably have another hearing on the content aspect of distance learning because quality control is very important,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, reiterated that the reach of television makes it a viable tool for distance learning, especially for those who have no available internet connectivity.

Citing information from Dataxis, a global firm specializing in telecom and media business, he said 18.7 million Filipino households have television in 2019, a number that is expected to increase to 20.7 million by 2024.

The lawmaker added that since not all parents can teach their children at home because some of them have not completed schooling, teachers can guide learners through recorded lessons for television. Parents, on the other hand, can ensure that their children are focused on studying.

He noted that some local government units (LGU) have already partnered with local television stations to broadcast recorded lessons.

He cited as an example a local cable service provider in Luna, Isabela which provided two channels for the province’s ‘TV-Eskwela’. One channel will be used for elementary while the other will be for high school learners.

Isabela City in Basilan has also forged a partnership with a local cable service provider to put up ‘TELEdukasyon’.

Under the partnership, the P1,500 cable installation fee is waived and parents will just have to pay for the P350 subscription fee monthly, which gives them access to three channels dedicated to distance learning.

“Sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon ngayong panahon ng krisis, hindi lang ang pag-abot sa ating mga mag-aaral ang dapat nating pinag-uusapan. Mahalagang tutukan natin kung paano masisigurong dekalidad ang edukasyon na natatanggap nila kahit na sila ay nasa mga tahanan nila,” Gatchalian said.

DepEd moves opening of classes to October 5

Robie de Guzman   •   August 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) on Friday announced that the opening of classes has been moved to October 5 following calls for adjustments as the country’s education system shifts to blended learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said President Rodrigo Duterte approved its recommendation to defer the opening of School Year 2020-2021 from August 24 to October 5.

Briones said she submitted the recommendation to the president on August 6 after the latter placed back Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

“As per the memorandum, the President has given approval to the recommendation of DepEd. Thus, we will implement such a decision to defer school opening to October 5 pursuant to Republic Act No. 11480,” Briones said.

She said the deferment will be used to provide relief to the logistical limitations faced by the areas placed under MECQ and to “fill in the remaining gaps of the school opening that we are currently addressing.”

“Areas outside MECQ are directed to continue their orientations, dry runs, and delivery of learning resources so that we will be ready for the opening of classes on October 5,” Briones added.

Several groups and lawmakers have earlier called on DepEd to postpone the opening of classes this month to give more time for the preparation of the transition to distance learning.

“We trust that this is the final adjustment of the school opening. Even with the implementation of MECQ, we will use this time to make the necessary adjustments and ensure that all preparations have been made for the successful opening of classes for School Year 2020-2021,” Briones said.

Robredo urges DepEd to realign budget to fund blended learning, address health concerns

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to realign the items in its budget to finance the distance learning program and respond to the needs of teachers and students as the country shifts to a blending learning system amid the pandemic.

In a letter dated August 10 addressed to DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, Robredo said the department must realign its P29-billion budget for rehabilitation of school buildings to procure gadgets and other equipment for distance learning and hazard pay for teachers.

“Around P29.5 billion was earmarked for the rehabilitation of school buildings for 2020. Given the shift to distance learning, many of these school buildings will be left without children to occupy them, thus deprioritizing the need for the rehabilitation of physical spaces,” she said.

“This amount can be used to procure the needed gadget and equipment for distance learning as well as address the health concerns of educators,” she added.

Robredo also noted that 61% or around 14 million households do not have access to the internet, adding that 74% or some 34,700 schools do not have the infrastructure to engage in online learning.

“While we understand that the department has set up the DepEd Commons learning platform for students to access lessons on their worn, we have received reports that only 7 million students have so far subscribed to this platform,” she said.

“This constitutes only 35% of the estimated 20 million public school students in the country,” she added.

Aside from access to internet connection and self-learning modules, Robredo also called on DepEd to protect the health and safety of educators by conducting mass testing, with testing and distribution of results done before classes start; providing sufficient fund for physical check-up and medicine; providing supplies such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, among others; distributing hazard pay on time, and; establishing a system for the health and wellness needs of the teachers.

She said such initiatives can be funded by realigning DepEd’s P700 million budget allotted for teachers’ trainings.

“Many of these trainings have already, or will be, shifted to online modalities, thus freeing up resources that would otherwise have been used for travel and accommodations,” Robredo said.

“Rest assured that we understand the complexity of the challenges before us. We submit these insights and recommendations in the spirit of solidarity so that we may all, as one nation, build the better normal that our people deserve,” she added.

In response to the vice president’s recommendations, Briones said they cannot just make any significant realignment in their budget without consulting the Department of Budget and Management.

She also said they have allotted P9 billion fund for the reproduction of modules and that these have been forwarded to DepEd regional and division offices.

Briones likewise assured they have laid out programs to ensure the safety and health of educators as she reiterated that no face-to-face classes will be implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been paying hazard pay before COVID-19 for teachers who are in places na malayo ang sasakyan, malayo sa urban area. May standard kasi yan,” she said.

“Ulitin ko walang face-to-face until hangga’t walang vaccine yun ang sinasabi ni president; therefore, the teachers will not be exposed as a result of teaching. If they will be exposed, there might be other causes,” she added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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