Month-long remote enrollment in public schools starts

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 01 2020 01:17 PM | Updated as of Jun 01 2020 01:18 PM

A member of the Manila Health Department’s sanitation team disinfects a classroom in the General M. Hizon Elementary School on May 30, 2020 in preparation for enrollment on June 1. Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — From a private academy in Mandaluyong City, Anna Morales has decided to transfer her 7-year-old son to a public school in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Aside from less expenses, Morales said her mother — a teacher — would be able to supervise her son's learning at home in the province while she continued to work in Quezon City.

"Less expenses kasi 'pag doon sa public [schools], tapos mas convenient, teacher naman lola niya," she told ABS-CBN News.

(There are less expenses in public [schools] and it's more convenient since his grandmother is a teacher.)

Learning is expected to take place mostly at home when classes formally start on August 24 after the Department of Education (DepEd) discouraged face-to-face learning so students, teachers, and school personnel would not be exposed to the risk of contracting the new coronavirus.

In place of face-to-face interactions, schools will offer online classes, take-home printed modules, or learning through television and radio.

Millions of public school students are expected to start registering for the coming school year on Monday, but in yet another unprecedented mode: remote enrollment. 

With the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, DepEd earlier issued guidelines discouraging students and their parents from enrolling in person in schools, even as quarantine restrictions have eased. 

"Physical enrollment in schools or other similar activity shall be highly discouraged, even in low risk areas. The first two weeks shall completely be remote enrollment, where there will absolutely be no face-to-face," the DepEd said in an order issued Thursday. 

Physical enrollment, the DepEd said, could only be done on the third week and must be coordinated with the local government unit.

To enroll, students will be contacted by their class advisers from the previous school year, but parents or guardians may also reach out to the teachers, the agency said.

Enrollees in kindergarten, transferees, balik-aral (dropouts returning to school), and those in the alternative learning system may get in touch with enrollment focal persons assigned by schools, according to the DepEd.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers on Sunday welcomed the DepEd’s decision to have teachers work from home during their first week back on the job, or from June 1 to 5.

But the group, which counts 200,000 members, continued to press the DepEd for mass testing in schools, and to provide laptops and internet allowance for teachers.

"It will only delay the inevitable and will not solve the issues of health and safety, and adequate means to deliver work output," the group said in a statement.

ENROLLMENT DECLINE, MASS MIGRATION SEEN

Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said it was up to parents whether they would enroll their children for the coming school year, adding that she would respect their decision.

For parents like Morales, education remains a priority even as the country continued to face the pandemic.

"Kasabay ng health ay priority ang education," she said.

(Along with health, education is a priority.)

"Nakita ko magiging mas madali ‘yong set-up na parang homeschooling kasi may teacher talaga sa bahay," she explained.

(I saw that a homeschooling set-up would be easier since there’s a teacher at home.)

But some parents or guardians may not be able to facilitate their children’s learning at home, which Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan cited as one of several reasons why a decline in enrollment was possible this year.

Parents may also be doubting whether their children would effectively learn through the alternative modes, Malaluan said.

For School Year 2019 to 2020, over 27 million K-12 students were enrolled in public and private schools, state universities and colleges, and Philippine schools overseas, DepEd data showed.

The agency was also preparing for a possible mass migration of students from private to public schools.

Private schools might also lose about 2 million students this coming school year after the pandemic affected their families' income, according to the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations.

Some lawmakers and groups have called on government to postpone the opening of classes in August until a vaccine against COVID-19 was available in the country. Others have argued that the education system may not be ready to implement alternative modes of learning.

Last Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he supports the DepEd's plans to implement alternative modes of learning, adding that he would look for funding if the agency needed it.