“DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones’ pep talk on fighting fears and teaching our students courage does not assuage our apprehensions as they are based on our rational assessment of the country’s present condition.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The broadest group of public school teachers in the Philippines called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure the safety of students and teachers in opening the academic year on Aug. 24.
In a press conference Tuesday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) presented its five-point pre-requisites for school opening amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. On June 1, public school teachers and employees will report back to work.
“DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones’ pep talk on fighting fears and teaching our students courage does not assuage our apprehensions as they are based on our rational assessment of the country’s present condition,” said Raymond Basilio, secretary general of ACT.
He said that the government has failed to conduct mass testing and yet, the DepEd is now gearing to start the 2020-2021 academic year.
“What is the implication of this (opening the school year)? The government is putting the teachers, students and non-teaching personnel at a great risk,” said Basilio.
ACT said the following pre-requisites must be met before the opening of classese:
1) Employ a comprehensive medical and socio-economic response to the crisis;
2) Fund and establish health and safety measures at the school level;
3) Ensure access to quality education;
4) Protect education workers’ labor rights and grant necessary benefits; and,
5) Conduct democratic consultations with teachers, parents and learners
Basilio said there are 27 million students, one million DepEd teachers and also millions of parents who go with their children in school. With this, he said that the chances of contamination and contagion of the virus is very likely.
Mass testing for returning education workers
The group is also pushing for the mass testing of teachers and non-teaching personnel who will be reporting on June 1. They said this is important since there will more areas that will ease quarantine measures by the end of the month.
Basilio clarified that those who should be tested are the education employees who:
• Have symptoms and exposure to confirmed COVID-19 case/s;
• Don’t have symptoms but have exposure to confirmed COVID-19 case/s;
• Have COVID-19 symptoms but no known exposure to confirmed COVID-19 case/s; and
• Vulnerable populations from the workforce
“These are crucial not only in ensuring a safe working environment, but also in determining whether the agency may be able to operate should classes open in August. We cannot afford to risk the lives of our colleagues and especially not the lives of our students,” said Basilio.
Without mass testing, the group said there should be no reporting of education employees and no opening of classes.
Preparedness for other modes of learning
Meanwhile, Kristhean Navales, president of the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA) raised question as to the readiness of public schools for a new mode of learning.
DepEd said there are various learning delivery modes that can be adopted in this time of the pandemic. These include face-to-face, blended learnings, distance learnings, and homeschooling and other modes of delivery.
Navales said that majority of their students who belong to the poor population have limited or no access to the requirements needed for online learning delivery.
A recent survey they conducted involving 6,503 Quezon City teachers showed that 92 percent of teachers use cellphone, 70 percent have laptops but many of them only borrowed a unit from school and 62 percent rely on mobile internet with limited data cap. He said that public school teachers shell out P1,000 to P1,500a month from their own pockets for the internet.
As to the technological know-how, QCPSTA survey revealed that nine out of 10 public school teachers know how to use MS Word, 76 percent know how to use Powerpoint but only 50 percent know how to use Zoom video conference which is needed for online classes.
“The DepEd said that no children will be left behind, but in this mode of learning delivery, many children will be left behind especially the poor,” Navales said.
He added that the quality of education is also compromised without the face-to-face classes. He said that many elementary students are only learning to read and there are also special needs for the special education students.
“In an online learning delivery mode, what will happen to children if his/her parent goes to work? Who will assist him or her?” he said.
He said that the DepEd should should have conducted consultation with the teachers and parents to better address these matters.
The K to 12 curriculum has been adjusted, said Navales, which will also require training for teachers as learning competencies of students were reduced.
“The simultaneous implementation of blended modes of learning and the adjustments in the K to 12 curriculum also puts into question the quality of teaching and learning that will be delivered under the pandemic situation. The situation begs the question: could there really be a relevant continuity of education with these huge problems unaddressed?” ACT said.
Meanwhile, the group is hoping that Briones will heed their five pre-requisites before school opens for teachers on June 1 and for students on Aug. 24.