The New Normal in Education: School Year 2020-2021 Opens in August

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The Department of Education pushes through with the opening of classes for the school year (SY) 2020-2021 on August 24, expecting an 80 percent enrollment turnout for public and private schools this academic year despite the pandemic. According to Rappler, over 16 million students have been enrolled as of July 1, with 15.8 million in public institutions, while over 700,000 in private. 

Supposedly ending on June 30, the enrollment period for public schools was extended up until July 15, Philstar reported. The extension covers both remote and dropbox enrollment from all basic education levels, including kindergarten, elementary, and high school. The mentioned enrollment system is the government’s alternative procedure for student registration for those who don’t have access to digital platforms.

The Palace urges parents to enroll their children despite the health crisis going on. 

Alternative Learning Modes

According to the learning continuity plan presented by Secretary Leonor Briones in May, various alternative learning arrangements will be adopted this academic year, namely face-to-face learning, blended learning, distance learning, and homeschooling, depending on the risk severity classification of the locality.

Blended learning, as reported by Manila Bulletin, involves face-to-face, online, and modular learning delivery. It satisfies social distancing protocols, contributing to a reduced number of people going outdoors.

Meanwhile, distance learning happens with the aid of digital technologies, television and radio programs, and printed modules. The Department of Education sees this as the most effective mode of learning when young people are able to study independently, being supervised by parents every now and then.

Homeschooling, on the other hand, depends on well-trained parents, guardians or tutors. This learning delivery isn’t new, as many have embraced it for years prior to the pandemic. According to DepEd, homeschooling is a practical choice for families who want to include faith and family philosophy and values in their child’s education. 

There’s an apprenticeship program for senior high school students as well. Grades 11 and 12 pupils can immerse themselves in the workplace with a certified practitioner supervising them. The education department said that this is suitable for those who have technical-vocational-livelihood (TVL) courses.

As for face-to-face classes, President Duterte ordered a suspension until a vaccine is found, according to PNA. Distance learning emerges as the primary vehicle for academic instruction amid the pandemic.

Promotion of Distance Learning

In the 14th weekly report to Congress on the government’s pandemic response, President Duterte mentioned that the government will launch a P700-million project providing internet connection for 7,000 public schools across the country. As Manila Times reported, this is part of the preparation for the transition to distance learning.

Building the technology skills of teachers, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) provides webinars (online seminars), designed to make educators ready for the new normal of alternative learning systems. Primarily, teachers will learn how to use online learning management systems, video conferencing platforms, and online educational resources. There will be training sessions for cybersecurity as well.

Earlier this month, Philstar cited that the state-owned network IBC-13 was being considered as a platform for television-based education, still part of the distance learning program. The education department closely communicates with the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) for the project.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said that with a P100-million investment on the network, educational shows can reach students in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON. The office, however, is working on widening reach, as it talks to the satellite television industry.

For students in far-flung areas, especially those who don’t have access to computers and other modern technologies, the government plans to distribute transistor radios, according to UNTV.

Virtual Preparations

Last month, the education agency officially started its most popular back-to-school programs, Brigada Eskwela (BE) and Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE), preparing for the coming academic year. With the theme, “Pagpapanatili ng Bayanihan Tungo sa Kalidad na Edukasyon para sa Kabataan,” the department took BE and OBE to online platforms, Facebook and Youtube livestreams, holding the first-ever virtual back-to-school initiative. Secretary Briones gave a keynote message, urging stakeholders to work for Bayanihan sa Paaralan.

Instead of the traditional cleaning and repairing of physical classrooms, Brigada Eskwela 2020 focuses on improving partnership engagement with stakeholders. The education department encourages partners to donate thermal scanners and hand sanitizing equipment, as well as publish hygiene information materials. Likewise, they invite stakeholders to promote and provide learning modules and platforms to make education more accessible to more Filipinos.

The back-to-school program activities will last until August 29.

Sources: Rappler, Philstar, DepEd, Manila Bulletin, PNA, Manila Times, DICT, UNTV

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