MANILA - The Philippines' basic education sector is "not yet ready" to implement the shift to blended and distance learning 3 months before the opening of classes in August, Senate Committee on Basic Education, Culture and Arts chair Sherwin Gatchalian said Thursday.
Public schools, especially in provinces, still need help with internet connectivity, National Association of Public Secondary Schools of the Philippines (NAPSSPHIL) president Warlito Rosareal told senators and Department of Education (DepEd) officials in the hearing.
"Please, tulungan niyo po kami sa public schools system talaga (please really help us in public schools). We need the free WiFi all over the country," Rosareal said.
"We also need good laptops for our teachers na may video cams compatible with online learning," he said.
The DepEd earlier moved the opening of classes to August as the government expects the continued increase of COVID-19 cases in the country until next month.
Under the DepEd's new policy, schools must use a "blended" learning system through the use of online platforms, television, radio or printed modules to avoid children's physical attendance in schools where they might contract the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
LACK OF TRAINING, EQUIPMENT
Aside from the lack of computers for both teachers and students, majority of educators have yet to be trained on the hybrid scheme, Gatchalian told reporters in an online press conference after the committee hearing.
Only 15 percent of Filipino teachers have been trained to deliver alternative modes of education, while some 84 percent said they are not yet ready, he said.
While the "broad strokes and framework" are there, the plan "lacks details," he said.
"Hindi ready with the equipment for the minimum health standards dahil wala pang budget at wala pa nabibili. Hindi pa ready with the alternative delivery modes kung anong klaseng pagtuturo ang gagawin sa mga schools," he said.
(They are not yet ready with the equipment for the minimum health standards because there is no budget so they have not procured anything yet. The alternative delivery modes on how classes will be held in schools are also not yet ready.)
"Hindi pa clear kung ano ang gagawin under general community quarantine, puwede ba pumasok ang bata? Anong klaseng tech gagamitin?" he said.
(It is not yet clear what they will do under general community quarantine, will children be allowed to come to school? What kind of tech are they going to use?)
Government officials earlier agreed to deliver some lessons through television and radio, but National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) deputy commissioner Edgardo Cabarios told the panel that state-owned channel PTV has yet to come up with a standard programming for Filipino students.
'BARELY ENOUGH TIME'
"If you talk about training of teachers, buying of equipment, getting necessary medical tools, 3 months is barely enough time to make our school safe and get our teachers ready," the senator said.
DepEd should also provide additional materials to help parents guide their children in the homeschooling component of the blended learning system, Sen. Nancy Binay said.
"Sa panahon ngayon parang 'yung magulang ang dapat bumalik sa eskuwela. Sa sitwasyon natin parang kailangan din ng retraining ng mga magulang," she said
About P550 billion is needed to install online learning resources, computer-based universal enrolment, and procure hygiene kits and sanitation equipment for all schools nationwide, DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla said.
The Department of Budget and Management withdrew P8.2 billion from the DepEd's budget to boost funding for the government's efforts against COVID-19, she said.
Binay also urged DepEd officials to mandate all teachers to undergo COVID-19 testing before classes start on August 24.
"We have to make sure all learners are safe pag pumasok sila sa eskuwelahan at pag inapply natin yung distance learning ay matuto sila," Gatchalian said, noting that about 22 million Filipino students are expected to enroll in public schools this year, while some 5 million others will be studying in private learning institutions.
The Committee will schedule another hearing before August to check the education sector's preparedness for the new normal for both teachers and students, Gatchalian said.