MANILA - Budgetary support for public school teachers to effectively execute distance learning is not enough, a senator admitted Thursday.
"I have to admit [that] budget to support our teachers with internet connections, with gadgets, as well as other necessities to successfully implement distance learning is not enough," Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, told ANC.
Funds were allocated in the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or “Bayanihan 2" and 2021 budget to support the country's 900,000 teachers but were still found wanting, he added.
To address gaps in distance learning, the senator is pushing for a pilot study of limited in-person classes in areas deemed low-risk of COVID-19 transmission. The dry run will involve over 1,000 out of 60,000 schools nationwide.
"The importance of this is to gain knowledge on how to navigate through COVID in light of opening classes in the future," Gatchalian said.
He noted that the Philippines was the only country in Asia that has yet to hold face-to-face classes.
"In Asia right now, we're the only country, which have not opened school yet. A lot of our neighbors has already started school. A lot of our neighbors has already started face-to-face classes," he said, adding even countries that has yet to roll out their COVID-19 vaccination.
Classes in public schools in the country opened in October under a blended distance learning system due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.
Under the blended learning system, students receive lessons through printed or offline modules, online learning and television or radio-based instruction.
Gatchalian said distance learning had been challenging for students, teachers and parents.
"I got a preliminary data form Valenzuela. I found out that our students there are not doing so well... The reason why I said they're not doing well because pre-Covid levels, we have a lot of problems already in terms of learner outcome," he said.
Gatchalian said an assessment would be conducted on students' learning outcomes after the first semester of the school year ends on Feb. 27.
"The data that will come out in this assessment is very important because it will help us come up with interventions that will help our students," he said. "It's important to pinpoint where the students are weak. It's important to give them the right intervention so they can keep up."
Earlier this week, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected anew the proposed pilot test for face-to-face classes until COVID-19 vaccines become available in the country.
The government was supposed to conduct a dry run in January but the President cancelled it, citing concerns over a more infectious variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the respiratory illness.