MANILA - The Philippines' Department of Education (DepEd) considered the first day of classes on Monday in all of the country's public schools a success, with no major difficulties experienced.
This, even though some were not able to join their virtual classes due to unreliable internet connectivity.
"We have not monitored any major difficulties so we would like to believe that the first day of classes, the official first day has been successful," Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio told ANC.
"In fact, the first day of learning did not happen today. There are many homes whose children were already doing the lessons even during the weekend. I have personally witnessed homes where the kids were so engaged in the lessons. They appeared to be very excited to learn," San Antonio said.
Being unable to connect to the internet and attend virtual classes is not a sign of failure, San Antonio said, as there are a lot of schools that were already able to distribute modules to their students.
"Some were still distributing today. But a significant number, many of our schools division offices have distributed the printed modules for those doing the printed modular distance learning as early as last week," he said.
In Davao City, teacher Jelly Calunsod of the Don Julian Rodriguez Sr. Elementary School said her students' modules have been distributed as early as last week, with proper instructions already relayed even to the learners' parents.
"Most parents, ready pud sila pad-assist sa ilang kids at home. Last week, nag-conduct na man gud og orientation ang mga schools ngadto sa mga parents on how the learning process will go in this new system," she told ABS-CBN News.
(Most parents are ready to to assist their kids at home. Last week, the schools here have conducted orientation for parents on how the learning process will go in this new system.)
Teacher Raga, from Bislig City, Surigao del Sur, said in a separate interview that all her students' modules have also been distributed by Saturday. The Science teacher for grades 9 and 10 students in a public school there requested not to be identified by her real name as she had no permission to speak to the press.
“We don’t have online modality. We can’t go for online because only a few have gadgets and internet connection,” she said, adding, "But I'm always online on Facebook Messenger to be always ready to entertain questions from students."
DepEd's San Antonio said that "just because people could not access the internet, we would already say there was failure."
"It was very clear that there were options," he said.
"If the internet would not work, then the learners will be studying the learning resources through an offline digital mode. As long as they have the learning resources, then the children, the youngsters, can proceed with doing all the activities indicated in our self-learning modules which have been converted into different formats, digital formats included," he said.
Calunsod, the Davao City teacher, acknowledged that some parents need proper guidance in using gadgets, and that internet connectivity can be challenging for some.
"Ang medyo makalangan, kaning capacity sa parents. But mahimay ra ni kay nabag-uhan pa man," she said.
(What may possibly cause problem is the parents' capacity. But this can be ironed out because everybody is still getting the hang of it.)
San Antonio explained that DepEd has already decentralized the system, and the distribution of modules and other learning materials now depend on the individual schools.
"Right at the start, we were very clear that the operationalization and contextualization from the delivery of the distance learning modalities would be done by the school. So when I say it depends on the school, it’s the schools that would decide which ones to offer for their learners, when the materials would be delivered, the manner of delivery, retrieving these learning resources and the activity sheets of the learners would all be decided by the schools," he said.
"We have decentralized the mechanism because we feel that it is going to be very difficult coming up with a one-size-fits-all approach for all schools to offer different distance learning delivery modalities," he added.
On her first day in school, Grade 11 student Czarinna Faith Sugala realized all the more the value of her teachers whose physical presence she said would have made learning much easier for them than in the current set-up.
"I prefer the regular days because we learn from our teachers. Especially rin sa ibang students na hindi kaagad makakuha ng mga lesson. Modular is difficult for students because not everyone will help you if ever na 'di mo maintindihan ang isang lesson, or nalilito ka. Mas preferred ko kung ang teachers ang magpapaliwanag sa students," the 17-year-old public school student from Bislig City told ABS-CBN News.
(Especially for other students who do not easily understand the lessons. Modular is difficult for students because not everyone will help you if ever you don't understand the lesson, or you are confused. I really prefer teachers explaining directly to students.)
She said she is "stressed" under the new learning modalities because she is sharing her study space at home with her siblings and a cousin.
“Honestly, I don’t feel it’s our first day in school because I’m working from home today until tomorrow," shared Teacher Raga, the educator from Bislig City, noting the difference from the traditional in-person classes.
Teacher Raga said that when she reports to school on Wednesday, she and her co-teachers will start preparing for their students' learning modules for the month of November.
"I've set up a group chat with my advisory class. That's where we communicate," she said when asked how she interacts with her students.
In Calunsod's school in Davao City, teachers marked their first day attending the flag ceremony in commemoration of the World Teachers' Day.
"Then, we had a viewing of the regional opening and national opening of classes. We shared the links as well with the parents so they can watch it with our students," she said.
Over 22 million public school students on Monday began to venture into distance learning amid the pandemic.
Online and modular learning are among the different distance education modalities being implemented by the DepEd this year as in-person class remain suspended due to the threat of COVID-19.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said the department will continue to monitor the situation in schools under the "new normal" and respond to the challenges that would arise.