“It’s about moving forward to a new normal with the hard lessons of the pandemic crisis adopting to new solutions and strategies for a sustainable post-pandemic society”
According to DepED’s Department Order 34, school year 2022-2023 shall formally start on Monday, August 22, 2022.
The order directs schools to conduct face-to-face classes allowing a transition period until October 31, after which all public and private schools “shaIl have transitioned to 5 days in-person classes. After the said date, no school shall be allowed to implement purely distance learning or blended learning except for those that are implementing Alternative Delivery Modes.”
The impetus for this is the alarm raised by the National Economic Development Authority on the learning loss of Filipino students from the long school shutdowns because of the pandemic.
Another reason is the economic stimulation that will be driven by the reopening of the whole educational ecosystem.
These are indeed compelling rationale to fully reopen our schools but as a parent, I am concerned about the readiness of our schools to shift back to in-person teaching and, more important, the safety of my children from getting infected by COVID 19 with latest news reports saying infection rates are again on the rise.
The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines, in its July 14 letter to Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio, appealed for more flexibility and to allow blended learning in private schools beyond the October 31 deadline.
COCOPEA stated that blended learning modes in private schools have been effective in delivering the curriculum in these challenging two years of the pandemic.
They reasoned the wide range of online and hybrid learning modes that integrate with in-person methods enrich the horizon of educational tools for providing the best learning for students.
To comply with international health and safety standards, COCOPEA estimates an increase of 50 percent of current capacity will need to be built to observe the one-meter social distancing requirement which limits classes to have only 20 students.
A legal issue was also raised on the different policy environments of the public schools under the control of the DepED “while private schools are governed by their respective governing boards and administrators subject only to the Constitutional reasonable supervision and regulation by the State in recognition of its complementary role in education.”
This then allows private schools to implement learning modes that their management see best for their respective local situations and capacities which include flexibility to adopt online and hybrid classes for blended learning.
For my part as a parent, if I am not confident on the readiness of schools to transition to full face-to-face classes, I want to have the option to have my kids attend hybrid classes to protect my family from getting infected by whatever COVID variant is out there.
There is also the question of liability in case, God forbid, my children get infected.
These are serious points of concern causing hesitation for many if not all parents.
Until we have fully defeated COVID 19, I believe parents will still favor online classes or at least a hybrid mode that will have the lowest risk to our children.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree that in-person classes will still be most effective in delivering the highest learning experience for students.
But we cannot go back to normal. It’s about moving forward to a new normal with the hard lessons of the pandemic crisis adopting to new solutions and strategies for a sustainable post-pandemic society.
It’s good that this issue has reached the President and has ordered the continuation of blended learning beyond October 31 to which Education Secretary Sara Duterte has proposed to institutionalize blended learning in addressing gaps in teacher and classroom shortage and other problems in the sector.
With this development, COCOPEA has responded with appreciation.
To quote their latest statement, the group said, “The unique experiences in our schools in the last two years on the effective implementation of online learning platforms have allowed for a diversity of instructional strategies to maintain the quality of learning through the quality of our teachers, and the use of innovative teacher training, content development, educational technology and media.
“With the integration of online and remote modalities to face-to-face classes this coming school year, it would allow these private schools to further enhance their students’ learning experiences without compromising their safety against COVID-19.”
The COCOPEA has reached out to the Education Secretary and will be meeting to share constructive insights on their experience and data on blended learning that would hopefully result in a more responsive policy for the whole Philippine education system.
We need more of these close consultation with education stakeholders in our common goal to provide the best learning for all our students.