MANILA — Youth groups slammed the Commission on Higher Education's (CHED) decision to continue implementing flexible learning in the coming years, saying it would exacerbate problems that students and teachers face under the new setup.
National Union of Students of the Philippines National President Jandeil Roperos said the new policy would worsen the financial, mental and emotional hardships that confront students with flexible learning.
It would also "jeopardize the quality education that is their right," Roperos said.
"Face-to-face classes remain to be the most inclusive and accessible option for education. If CHED wishes to pursue prolonged flexible learning, do they at least give gadget and connection assistance to those in need?" she said in a statement.
"It has been a month since lockdown, and frankly, the bursts of calls for academic breaks and academic ease are taking place as a reflection of how exhausting and unsustainable the current set-up in learning is," she added.
The Kabataan Party-list described the new policy as a "gross negligence of duty to the education sector."
"Teachers and students struggle with lacking internet infrastructure and modular learning," the group said.
It also called on the commission to "support calls to provide student and teacher subsidies and to allocate funding for the safe return to face-to-face classes."
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said not all students and teachers who have complied with flexible learning "have adjusted to the current learning set-up which is still far from flexible."
"It has taken a toll on students and teachers' health and well-being as they struggle with online classes, experiencing stress and anxiety amid the health and economic crises," she said in a Twitter post.
Under flexible learning, which was implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Philippine colleges and universities carry out learning through a mix of online (virtual classes) and offline methods (modules and other printed materials).
Many students and teachers have complained of unreliable internet connectivity and excessive workload due to the new mode of instruction.
In a webinar on Friday, CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera said the commission has adopted a policy to continue flexible learning even after the pandemic.
Bringing back face-to-face classes will expose educational stakeholders to the "same risks if another pandemic comes in" and "would have wasted all the investments in technology, in teacher training, in the retrofitting of our facilities," he said.