The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) rallied behind the Department of Education’s (DepEd) position favoring the schools’ prerogative to adopt options for blended and alternative delivery modes (ADM) of learning to protect students from natural disasters and extreme climate conditions that threaten their health and well-being during face-to-face classes.
The CHR cited DepEd’s “commendable responsiveness and adaptiveness for adjusting its perspective on blended learning arrangements following reports of students experiencing heat-related health issues, such as the case in Laguna during the last week of March, when dozens of students fainted due to heat exhaustion for staying outdoors for their school’s fire and earthquake drills.”
The agency explained that it supports DepEd’s decision to pursue blended and ADM learning to promote a safe learning environment for children pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of a Child, and a safe working environment for faculty and staff in line with international labor standards, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Convention of 1981.
The CHR appreciated how DepEd left the decision at the discretion of school heads, acknowledging that each school may have different experiences and capacities in dealing with the dry season heat.
“Respecting the context of each school helps these learning institutions maximize students’ access to their right to education,” it said.
“However, CHR must remind DepEd that there are persisting gaps in the distance learning component of blended learning that should be addressed as schools pursue this option,” it added.
Distance learning, as discussed in CHR’s Situation Report on the Right to Access to Education of Children amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was generally disadvantageous for poor students.
Students faced difficulties in affording decent-performance gadgets, access to stable internet, and other resources for online learning, while their home environments were barely conducive for attending online classes and accomplishing school work.
In pursuit of social justice and equality, DepEd and its development partners must resume and strengthen their assistance and programs for low-income families and marginalized groups, CHR cited.
Blended learning could sufficiently lighten the load of students, families and teachers as DepEd works on long-term solutions that could better protect students from the impacts of climate change, I noted.
CHR suggested that DepEd heed the recommendations of several teachers’ organizations asking for the construction of climate-resilient classrooms and the improvement of classroom-learner and teacher-student ratios to create better learning and working environments for all people engaging in face-to-face learning sessions.
“CHR remains vigilant and cooperative in making sure that no child or student is left behind as the country adopts to technological innovations and explores new learning setups in light of climate change. The primacy of children’s rights, including their access to quality education, must hold true regardless of their mode of learning,” it said.