Two senators Friday pressed the Department of Education (DepEd) to finalize its plan for implementing the blended learning system it will adopt this school year 2020-2021.
Senators Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Pilar Juliana “Pia” Cayetano said in separate statements DepEd must come up with a clear strategy on blended learning, a concept which presents alternatives to face-to-face classes, which could further the spread of the coronavirus disease 2020 (Covid-19).
Go reminded concerned state agencies to work together to provide remote learning methods that can ensure education access even for students who have no internet connection.
“There are students who do not have access to the internet. We should ensure that they will be given the opportunity to continue their studies,” Go said.
A global framework formulated by the United Nations Children’s Fund; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and the World Bank recommends that, for the safe re-opening of classes, focus should also be on other learning modalities to reach areas without internet connection.
Go recommended the use of available media, such as television and radio, to facilitate distance learning.
The senator cited Republic Act (RA) 8370, also known as the “Children’s Television Act of 1997,” which requires a broadcast network to provide at least 15 percent of its daily total air time to programs that further children’s positive development.
The state media company, Intercontinental Broadcasting Corp. (IBC-13), has offered its TV facilities as a remote learning platform. The proposal should enable DepEd to air curriculum-based programs.
Go said teachers must be extensively trained in the use of various multimedia platforms for teaching.
He said students with disabilities should be considered in the implementation of the plan.
Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, has staunchly backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to disallow face-to-face learning until it is deemed safe or until a vaccine for Covid-19 becomes available.
Duterte earlier suggested the use of radio as a mode of distance learning given that it is the most accessible form of media even in far-flung areas.
DepEd has been developing its Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan to cope with the pandemic. The plan directs schools to implement blended/distance-learning modalities wherein lessons will be delivered to the students in their homes.
Under the plan, DepEd has developed a learning portal called “DepEd Commons” where online learning resources are published. Television- and radio-based instruction is also part of the plan.
Students with no access to these technologies will be provided with printed or digital modules to be delivered to their homes or picked up by their parents at designated areas.
Cayetano called on DepEd to lay down its specific plans for blended learning particularly for far-flung areas that have limited access to distance education requirements, including the internet.
“I know what the general instructions [of the President] are, but are there going to be exceptions to these rules? Because it’s even harder to deliver distance learning materials for some barangay (villages) which have no exposure or may have very limited exposure to the virus,” said Cayetano during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture last Thursday.
“Of course we will follow the directive. Don’t get me wrong. I am not proposing that we don’t. But I am proposing that you make clear what is needed for other scenarios, like in many far-flung areas,” Cayetano said.
The senator asked the department for specific updates on how it plans to integrate blended learning in the curriculum.
She had been urging DepEd to present concrete proposals since the sixth weekly report of the President was submitted to Congress pursuant to the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.
“What I’m asking is, if there has been any preparation whatsoever for some minimal amount of face-to-face [learning]… I’ve been to barangay in the mountains that are not accessible to cars… ‘Yung kaisa-isa o dalawang teacher sa barangay, kahalubilo naman nila ang mga estudyante (with one or two teachers in the villages, they mingle with the students) to begin with because they are isolated. Mas mahirap pang mag-deliver doon ng distance learning (It’s more difficult to deliver distance learning there),” she said.
DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said the agency was aware of the realities that Cayetano pointed out. He said in these particular cases, teachers are allowed to meet a small number of neighboring learners on a regular basis so they can provide guidance in person, but not necessarily inside the schools.
Cayetano said DepEd should exert more effort in clarifying and addressing these special scenarios since they already recognize that the situation exists. She said the agency should bring this to the attention of decision-making bodies to carve out better systems to educate children in areas where distance learning is not easily accessible.