MANILA — A Department of Education (DepEd) official has reiterated that the proposed opening of School Year 2021-2022 in August would not be a burden to students and educators.
The suggestion to open the school year on Aug. 23, still subject to President Rodrigo Duterte's approval, will shorten the students' and teachers' vacation from 8 to 6 weeks.
But, in an interview with ABS-CBN News, Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said that while his agency wanted to observe the “traditional practice” of having a two-month break between two school years, the country is still in an "emergency" situation due to the pandemic.
Opening the school year at an earlier time will also help them keep up with the academic performance of students.
“Hindi kailangang gawing mahaba ang pagpapahinga. Ang mga naghahabol, nagdo-double time, so kasama sa magiging sakripisyo nating lahat," San Antonio said.
(We don't need to rest for a long time. Those who are still trying to keep up are doubling their time, too, as a form of sacrifice.)
"Pero sabi ko nga, hindi pa naman ito final pero iyan ang proposal. Kasi ako personally naniniwala na dapat sa pinakamaagang panahon ay magpasimula ulit tayo sa pagpapatuto sa mga kabataang Pilipino,” he said.
(Just like what I said, this is not yet final but that is the proposal. I personally believe that we should be able to start the school year at the earliest possible time to help the children learn.)
San Antonio added that there could also be learning losses during breaks, that’s why interventions and enrichment programs are being provided to students.
Safety nets, such as the academic ease, are there to assure both the educators and students that this decision is still "reasonable."
“Ang assurance naman natin, hindi naman ito mabigat. Kasi nga maliwanag, bibigyang diin pa rin natin iyong academic ease. Hindi naman completely mabigat na mabigat at reasonable naman iyong mga hinihingi natin sa mga kabataang Pilipino,” he explained.
(Our assurance is this would not be a burden. It is clear that we will still give emphasis on the academic ease. This is not so difficult, it's a reasonable request to our Filipino youth.)
Earlier, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition expressed disappointment on DepEd’s plan to open the next school year on the said date.
The groups claimed this would not give teachers enough rest, saying that while teachers are always willing to serve the country, their welfare must also be taken into consideration.
San Antonio, meanwhile, appealed to the students and teachers not to see this as a struggle, but as an opportunity to learn.
“Hindi ito pagpapahirap. Pagkakataon, kinukuha natin ang panahon na sabi nga, ang time pag nawala na iyan, hindi mo na iyan mababalik. Pag na-miss natin iyong opportunities pagdating sa, iyon na nga, panahon," he said.
(We are not making things difficult. The opportunities will be wasted and we cannot take it back once we miss it.)
"Ang paniniwala ko ay kailangang lahat ng pagkakataon na magkaroon ng lessons ang mga bata na hindi naman nga sobrang inalis iyong rest din, parang break din. Kasi healthy naman talaga na may break."
(I believe that we need to give lessons to the students that we did not remove their time for rest.)
PLANS FOR NEXT SCHOOL YEAR
DepEd remains hopeful that limited face-to-face classes will soon be conducted in areas with zero or low COVID-19 transmission in a month.
According to San Antonio, these are among the things the agency is considering, but the final decision will still be up to Duterte.
Should distance learning continue, he pointed out that there will also be improvements.
“Iyong mga natutunan natin ngayong taon ay gagamitin natin upang maging mas mabisa, mas maging maayos iyong mga sistemang ginagawa. So ang tingin ko po, marami na tayong mga lessons learned na magiging input para mas maigting po ang pagpapatuto sa mga batang Pilipino,” he said.
(We will use what we learned this year to improve the things in the future. I think we already learned a lot of things that could help in ramping up improvements for the kids' learning.)
Since the start of blended learning classes, the agency has been hounded with different issues on the accuracy and errors in learning modules, among others.
In an earlier interview, San Antonio said the agency is preparing for many scenarios for the next school year.
This includes an "ideal" one where there will be limited face-to-face classes and where students will be allowed to go to school a number of times a week.
The ”worst case," he said, would be purely using distance learning as mode of instruction.
San Antonio, however, assured everyone that they would implement a more efficient system for distance learning, as errors in learning resources have already been corrected.
Youth and teachers’ groups have long been vying for the resumption of limited face-to-face classes.
Last week, advocacy group Philippine Business for Education asked the government to craft measures to ensure the safe reopening of schools to “make up for learning losses”.