MANILA – Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday urged government to “use every arsenal” to ensure that students do not regress in education or drop out from school next year as in-person classes remain suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, said 2021 “will be a challenging year for both our learners and our teachers in light of the absence of face-to-face classes.”
“Government has to use every arsenal it has to make sure that our learners will not regress, or worse, drop out of school completely,” he said in a statement.
Gatchalian made the statement in relation to President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to cancel the dry run of limited in-person classes in areas with low risk of COVID-19 transmission, which was scheduled to take place in January.
Duterte announced the cancellation of the dry run over the weekend, citing concerns over the new coronavirus variant that was discovered in the United Kingdom.
Gatchalian said government has equipped the Department of Education with “COVID-mitigating items in the 2021 budget.”
“They should implement those items as soon as possible,” he added.
Some P751.7 billion was allotted for the education sector under the 2021 national budget, which Duterte signed Monday evening.
In an interview with TeleRadyo, Teachers’ Dignity Coalition Chairperson Benjo Basas said the number of students who participate in distance learning has declined.
“Nakikita po namin na bumababa ang bilang ng mga bata dun sa participation, both in modular and online mode. Kung dati, out of 40 na estudyante, may uma-attend pa na hanggang 30 ang maximum, ngayon bumaba na po talaga. ‘Di na po ‘yan nangangalahati,” Basas said.
(We can see the number of students participating in both modular and online mode is declining. Before, some 30 students out of 40 attend their classes. Now, it has really gone down. Not even half attend.)
Basas said his group welcomed the cancellation of the dry run, saying it would only put teachers and students in danger.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), meanwhile, criticized Duterte’s decision, calling it a “knee-jerk response.”
ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said government should work to bring students back to safe schools.
Face-to-face classes are still the ideal mode of teaching and learning because the current distance-learning setup is a failure, Basilio said.
The Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators also welcomed the cancellation of the dry run.
FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag said the dry run was contradictory to the policy of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the government body tasked to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
“It is contradictory in the first place since IATF disapproves of congregation, here is the call to gather the students for the dry run,” Kasilag said in an interview.
This year, schools implemented distance learning, where students learn through printed and digital modules, online classes, television and radio.
– With reports from Katrina Domingo and Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News