Congressmen have vowed to address the class disruption that has affected students and faculty members; tertiary schools and educational institutions and their personnel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a privilege speech, Committee on Higher and Technical Education chairman, Baguio City Rep. Mark Go said that his panel is committed to come up with new learning modes and review the most effective grading scheme and promotion system that can be adopted by schools as part of the “new normal.”
“I would like to enjoin my esteemed colleagues to swiftly implement and act on recommended interventions and policies that are most acceptable to stakeholders. The shift to online platforms, even in ablended learning environment, may alienate students from low-income households who may have limited connectivity,” Go said.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago, who interpellated Go, said that the shift of schools to online classes has put at a disadvantage, in terms of academic performance, students who experience risks and setbacks due to connectivity problems.
Elago ealier filed House Resolution 831 that calls for the grant of passing grades to all students.
“Our call is to focus on learning at hindi po doon sa mismong (and not on actual) grading, numerically, and just work on the preparation to strengthen remedial efforts kung paano natin hahabulin ang mga dapat pang habulin pagdating sa (on how to catch up with whatever was missed in so far as) learning capacities and competencies ng ating mga estudyante (of the students) are involved,” she said.
Go vowed that Elago’s resolution will be taken up by the committee in its hearing next week to address the plight of students. As for measures to aid students experiencing connectivity issues but are still required to take online exams this week, Go said the committee will discuss the issue in another meeting.
Saying that only 20 percent of state universities and colleges (SUCs) are capable of implementing online learning, Go urged Congress to support the establishment of lending programs for HEIs and TVIs to address their needs and the challenges they face due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Go said that the government has already released a 3.6-billion Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) Fund, which aims to allay students’ financial difficulties for the coming school year.
Meanwhile, Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. said that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III recommended the earmarking of a P1-billion loan package to private schools for the implementation of a “study now, pay later” program to ease the financial burden of students. Go said he will coordinate with Dominguez so that the funding can be utilized at the soonest possible time.
With this, Go sought the inclusion of the education sector in the proposed economic stimulus package that seeks to revive economic activity by providing financial support to the nation’s entrepreneurs.
He said the education sector is allied with the economic interests of the country.
In addition, Go urged his fellow lawmakers to ensure the release of funds appropriated in the 2020 General Appropriations Act for the programs of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
As this developed, a teachers’ organization has said that the government should fund and implement a comprehensive plan that aims to guarantee the safety of students, educators and workers from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) once they are asked to physically return to schools.
In a statement, Alliance of Concerned Teachers Secretary General Raymond Basilio had reiterated their group’s appeal to the government to conduct COVID-19 testing for teachers before they resume work in June and students who will participate in face-to-face classes starting August.
Basilio clarified that testing in schools would not be for everyone, but only for students and workers who meet a certain criteria, such as those who experience symptoms, were exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case, or belong to the vulnerable population.
The DepEd earlier said it was studying the cost of conducting COVID-19 testing in schools.
Basilio said that the government should ensure adequate sanitation and disinfection facilities, and medical centers with enough health workers, equipment, and medicine.
ACT represents 200,000 teaching and non-teaching personnel from across the country.
Hygiene kits should also be distributed to students, teachers and other school workers, while funds should also be allotted for the free treatment of students, teachers and education workers who may be infected with COVID-19, according to Basilio.
He also recommended a hazard pay for teachers who would be physically reporting to schools during the pandemic.
Kristhean Navales, president of the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association, asked the government to provide “all the needs” of teachers so they could effectively carry out the alternative learning delivery modes that schools would implement while face-to-face classes are still prohibited. These include gadgets and stable internet connection.
Teachers should also be given internet allowance, Navales said. Navales also urged the DepEd to speed up its preparation of instructional and learning materials, and ensure that teachers are properly trained on alternative education delivery modes.
The DepEd earlier said public school teachers would start reporting for work, either physically or virtually, on June 1 to undergo various training in preparation for the upcoming school year.
On Tuesday, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that teachers would not be asked to appear physically in schools, especially in high-risk areas.
The DepEd also gave schools the freedom to choose which learning delivery modes they would implement for the upcoming school year, depending on the health situation in their locality and available resources.
Basilio and ACT Private Schools Spokesperson Kevin Armingol also called on the government to provide aid to private school teachers whose jobs were affected by the pandemic.
A survey conducted by ACT Private Schools found that 70 to 80 percent of private school teachers have not received their salaries since the pandemic began, according to Armingol.
The DepEd earlier said it was consulting other government agencies to provide cash aid for small private school teachers.
Public schools should absorb private school teachers who would lose their jobs because of the pandemic, said Armingol.
Armingol appealed to the government for the immediate release of the Teachers’ Salary Subsidy, which is given to educators in private high schools.
Basilio also reiterated his group’s appeal to the DepEd for widespread consultation regarding policies for the upcoming school year.
“Please observe democratic consultations in everything that you do. Nandiyan po, highly organized po ang parents through the parent-teachers associations, organized ang teachers through their unions,” said Basilio.
“Tanungin natin sila, alamin natin ang kanilang pagtingin sa mga bagay-bagay para involved sila sa pag-solve sa problemang ito,” he added.