MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Education is well-prepared with contingencies in place for the opening of classes in public schools across the country on Monday, an official said Sunday.
Class opening was rescheduled to Oct. 5 from Aug. 24 as the Philippine education system shifted to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Handang-handa po, at ito po ay galing sa ulat ng aming regional directors. 'Pag sinabi naming handang-handa, pinaghahandaan din ang contingencies para mabigyan ng tugon yung mga magiging hamon simula bukas," DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(We are well-prepared, and this comes from the reports of our regional directors. When we say well-prepared, we are also preparing contingencies to address problems we'll be facing from tomorrow.)
"Constant communication naman po kami. Kung kailangan ang guidance sa central office o support ay madali naman pong nangyayari ngayon kasi napakabilis mag-communicate ng mga kinauukulan."
(We are in constant communication. If regional officers need guidance or support from the central office, it is fast to communicate.)
Students may shift to different learning modalities and do not have to depend on gadgets, San Antonio said.
"Hindi kailangan mag-invest sa gadget para tuloy-tuloy ang pag-aaral ng mga bata. Naihanda na rin ng mga paaralan ang self-learning modules," he said.
(There is no need to invest on gadgets for the children's continued education. Schools are ready with self-learning modules.)
Meantime, teachers who do not have internet access may manage their classes by physically going to their schools, provided that they follow minimum health standards and they do not have underlying illnesses, according to San Antonio.
"Ang pagkakaalam ko rin po, meron tayong guidelines sa health protocol. At hindi naman po oobligahin ang may comorbidities. 'Di dapat pinapapasok at bibigyan ng trabaho na pwede gawin sa bahay," he said.
(I know we have health protocols. Those with comorbidities are not required to physically go to the school. They will be given jobs that can be done at home.)
"Lahat naman tayo may risk 'pag lalabas ka. So, ang sinasabi naman po ng health experts natin, 'pag sinunod mo ang health protocols, napakababa na ikaw ay mahawaan nitong virus na ito."
(We are all at risk when we go outside. Health experts say if you follow health protocols, you have a minimum chance of contracting the virus.)
The agency is in the process of hiring some 10,000 additional teachers, San Antonio added.
"Ang tingin namin, kung kami ay masusunod, ang kailangan namin yung dagdag, lalong lalo na sa mga magpapa-online, kasi ang online, medyo challenging din kasi kailangan mag-tutor ka rin synchronously," he said.
(If we were to be followed, we would like to have more teachers because online classes are challenging, you still have to tutor synchronously.)
"Alam naman natin hindi madaling manghingi ng posisiyon. May mga bakante rin kaming kailangan i-fill up. Alam na rin po ng ating superintendents na kailangang balansehin. May schools napaka-overcrowded, at may schools na may kaunti."
(We know it's not easy to ask for a position. We also have vacancies to fill up. Our superintendents know what to balance. There are overcrowded schools, while some have few teachers.)
As of Wednesday last week, 24.6 million learners enrolled in public and private schools, and in the Alternative Learning System for School Year 2020 to 2021. The figure is 88.8 percent of the total number of students last year.
According to DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali, 533,209,023 self-learning modules, or 80 percent of the total, have been distributed, as of the third week of September, to public school students who opted to use printed modules for the incoming school year.
Meanwhile, Malacañang expressed optimism about the upcoming opening of classes, assuring parents that DepEd is ready for it.
"We are optimistic with the opening of classes in public schools tomorrow, October 5, as the Department of Education (DepEd) assures the parents and the students that they are ready for the opening of classes in this period of COVID-19 normal," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque also said the government is addressing issues that learners may face.
"The system may not be perfect and there may be issues as we shift to flexible learning, which includes modular learning and supplemented by broadcast and online classes; but we are confident that DepEd would address these challenges. In this connection, we ask Congress to expedite the passing of DepEd’s budget, which includes support to these new learning approaches," he said.
- with report from Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News