Extend Preparation through a 6-month Bridge Period, and Postpone School Opening to January 2021

In less than two months, School Year 2020-2021 shall commence despite
the rising cases of COVID-19. With no clear indication yet that all systems are
in place, public and private schools across the country are in varying stages
of preparation for the “new normal” of education.

As educators, we know the difficulties of implementing changes given a
short period of time, relying primarily on our initiative and ingenuity to get
things done for our learners. Parents and families are also grappling with
economic uncertainties.

Thus, we call on the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider
postponing the new school year to the first quarter of 2021 or January at the
earliest, while using the period from July to December 2020 to extend
preparations and help bridge stakeholders over present challenges towards a
more responsive education system.

The EFD shares in
the objective of ensuring the right and access to education of Filipino
learners, and believes that learning should continue despite the pandemic. But
we cannot support any rushed implementation without ensuring the maximum
support to the three most important stakeholders – teachers, learners and
parents.

Why an extension?

We submit the
following advantages of extending preparations through a 6-month bridge period:

1. This can be
used to fully prepare the needed infrastructure to train teachers and orient
parents and learners. 

2. This can allow
students to further review and hone their understanding of the concepts learned
in previous school years. They can read in advance on concepts across future
grade level subjects.

3. This can give
DepEd enough time to review the K-12 curriculum, and possibly replace this with
a more people-centered and progressive curriculum.

Rushed continuity
plan

The DepEd only
released the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) this May, with
barely three months for teachers and school officials to prepare before the
August 24 opening.

We remember the
difficulties we faced in orienting and training to implement the K-12
Curriculum, but the situation at hand is far more daunting. Forced by the
pandemic, the public education system for the first time shall employ distance
learning on a wide-scale – through a combination of modular, online-based and
radio/TV-based instruction.

The EFD lists
down the following concerns with the BE-LCP:

1. The DepEd
states that there are 900,000 regular personnel employed in the public school
system, including 800,000 teachers, while there are 300,000 private school
teachers and personnel. Starting this July, public school teachers will be
required to report to office physically. There is no clarity whether the
equipment and infrastructure for minimum health standards such as protective
gears, disinfectant, detection, isolation and treatment facilities have been
installed in schools. We expect that the national government shall allot funds
to subsidize these provisions.

In relation to
this, we join the increasing calls of various sectors for greater State support
for both public and private school teachers through sustained wage subsidies
and other mechanisms at this time of disrupted incomes.

2. The DepEd says
that in areas where face-to-face classes will be allowed, the class size shall
be reduced to 15-20 learners to ensure physical distancing. We are concerned
about the implementability of this measure in terms of scheduling and space
considering lingering classroom shortages in public and smaller private
schools.

3. The DepEd
admits that only 2% of total learners in public schools have access to laptops
or tablets, while only 48% of public schools have internet connection. We share
in the public’s growing concern as to whether online-based learning will
actually work. The national government needs to provide increased funds to
secure free wifi and technical assistance to teachers and students, and ensure
connectivity especially in underserved areas.

4. The DepEd
admits that there are key operational challenges in the implementation of the
wider-scale Alternative Delivery Modalities. We educators know that these
challenges refer to the lack of training of personnel and uncertainties in the
provision of quality learning materials. We are concerned that only 40% of
public school teachers had been trained in Information and Communications
Technology (ICT) by DepEd according to the Senate Committee on Basic Education,
with “more intensive” trainings only happening this July.

5. Most importantly, we take exception to the move to reduce or
streamline the learning competencies to the “most essential” without a judicious
review of the K-12 curriculum. The EFD stands by its call to overhaul the K-12
framework and replace it with a nationalist, pro-people, and progressive
curriculum, where students learn not individualism and commercialism, but
social consciousness and solidarity. But a problematic curriculum further
streamlined means students will be learning even less this school year.

We reassert the
need for a curriculum framework that is nationalist, pro-people and
progressive, with renewed emphasis on humanities and social sciences.
Regardless of platform, whether face-to-face or through distance learning, the
teaching or instructional content remains the most important in shaping our
students towards being responsible and socially-conscious citizens. 

We are not
assured by DepEd saying that “remediation and enhancement activities” shall be
given so no learner will be left behind. With no concrete details yet on the
promises made in the BE-LCP, we fear that majority of students will definitely
be left behind as educators face the most uncertain and rocky school year so
far.

Like how DepEd officials ask Senators to give
them a chance to implement the new learning plan, we educators ask the same of DepEd
– to listen to the various concerns being raised and do what is right for
learners and their families.

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