By Xy Aldrae Murillo

PHOTO: DepEd/Bongbong Marcos (Twitter)

Despite appeals from teachers and private schools on having more flexibility with the scheduled opening of school year 2022-2023, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte reiterated that the dates are already approved in a signed department order and rescheduling it is impossible.

This comes after the appeal of a group of private schools that they should still be permitted to conduct blended learning as some students enroll to schools physically away from them, thinking that full-online classes are still feasible in the next school year.

Teacher’s group Teachers Dignity Coalition also called for the target August 22 opening to be reconsidered because teachers have inadequate time yet to rest and prepare for the next school year.

According to DepEd Order No. 34, s. 2022, blended learning will be conducted from August 22 to October 31 as transition period for schools to prepare for the eventual full in-person classes for all public and private schools nationwide starting November 2.

Duterte defended the department order on the opening of the school year, saying that the department based its decisions on a study where it shows that having face-to-face classes is still the most efficient mode of learning, especially for students with poor financial access.

While even though schools and sectors are having mixed reviews on the order, the Vice President said her department and President Marcos are still open to listen and conduct dialogues, yet still saying that the department order is final and irrevocable.

‘Health risks, enrollment impacts raised’

According to Joseph Noel Estrada, managing director of Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA) that appealed for flexibility, health issues will arise if students are obliged to attend face-to-face classes for an entire week.

"That will also affect the ability of the private schools to supervise the children on campus because they're in full capacity. So it affects our ability for social distancing and looking after the children better into schools. It's also a problem when a child falls ill then the student would have lost more in terms of learning than having a flexible learning option," Estrada stated.

"We cannot totally disregard social distancing, limitation in classroom capacity and again, that affects the private education sector because we cannot just build classrooms and buildings like what DepEd plans to do in order to accommodate everyone," he added. 

COCOPEA said that parents also support their call in allowing blended learning by mixing face-to-face classes and online learning, which will make the transition smoother. 

The ordered mode of learning for the next school year also raised a concern to the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC), with PEAC Executive Director Doris Ferrer speaking up about its possible impact to the enrollment in private schools because of concerns raised on the safety of students.

"Of course, it also has an effect on school fees, it will have an impact on schedules, faculty loading, etc. Truth to tell, some reached out to us saying they had orientations already in their schools, they already know it will be a blended learning modality that will be used by the schools and that is already the contract between the schools and the parents," she added. 

The department order states that from August 22 to October 31, blended learning will be conducted, and schools should use the transition period on the said dates so that on November 2, face-to-face classes should already be implemented.

Edited by Juliana Mondoyo