Time for DepEd, CHEd to man up

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THE Department of Education (DepEd) surely needs to take lessons in crisis management, unless of course it considers the recent tragedy that snuffed the lives of more than a dozen young students and seriously injured scores more as strictly a concern alone of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).

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It had taken the education department two days before it issued any statement on field trips, such as the one that ended in the death of the 15 mostly information technology students of a school in Quezon City on February 20 at a mountainous part of Tanay town in Rizal province, east of Manila.

If the reason for its silence was that DepEd Order No. 52, Series of 2003, covers only public and private and secondary schools, then it was a misplaced posturing for the department that apparently had preferred watching a fire eat up a neighbor’s house than dousing it with a pail of water to prevent the blaze from spreading.

This department order declared that educational field trips are not mandatory for public and private elementary and secondary school students and should be optional or voluntarily taken.

It was evidently oblivious of the fact—and we have this on authority—that school administrators of kindergarten
just like their counterparts in the public and private primary schools and high schools usually exercise what they think is their “prerogative” to decide what is mandatory and what is not.

Under this practice, you can picture kids as young as four or five years old being herded to some shopping and entertainment malls in an “extra-curricular” activity that only finds them sitting before computers playing the latest cyber games.

To not allow a pre-school kid to join a field trip and bond with his teachers and classmates would not be good for developing self-confidence at a very early age, or so it is argued, and might not spare the child from possible bullying for being the odd kid out.

It is, therefore, in order for Education Secretary Leonor Briones to revisit DepEd Order No. 52 and make it more inclusive and save the department from a lot of grief later when the bus carrying practically toddlers collides with a truck.

Briones can make it easier on the department by scrapping this order that provides field trips are not mandatory anyway.

Like the education department, CHEd cited a memorandum order that it reportedly issued in 2012 on guidelines governing educational tours and field trips for college students even as it declared on February 22 a moratorium on such out-of-school learning adventures, which supposedly fall under the government’s National Service Training Program (NSTP).

The suspension supposedly would enable the commission to “correct whatever deficiencies” the memorandum order might have “and issue a new memorandum order as soon as possible,” according to CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera.

In declaring the moratorium, however, the commission was conspicuously silent on allegations that the field trips are a money spinner for some colleges and universities that allegedly charge students take-it or leave-it fees under pain of being given failing marks for not joining such trips to, say, a resort or a camp of the school administrators’ choosing.

Sadly, in this age where smartphones arguably are valued more by students than the sacrifices of their parents that make it possible for them to tote these gadgets, field trips to the malls and other commercial
establishments will take precedence over medical missions and community immersions, among others, that the NSTP encourages for students to “enhance [their]civic consciousness and defense preparedness.”

Educational tours and field trips are here to stay, unless the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education get their act together if only to avoid a repeat of the Tanay tragedy.

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