"Let the classes begin!"
With these words, Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Monday officially declared the start of School Year 2020-2021.
"Today, October 5, 2020, we open our schools. Today, we claim victory over the destroyer, COVID-19," Briones said, referring to the start of the blended learning system that will be used amid the pandemic and pending the discovery and availability of the vaccine against COVID-19.
Reading from a prepared statement, Briones said the country “will not allow COVID-19 to destroy our children's education and their future.”
“Araw-araw may bagong krisis, bagong problema, at bagong pagkukulang. Paghihintayin ba namin kayong mga mag-aaral, more than 24 million of you? Hindi maaaring pababayaan kayo mag-aaral,” she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier said there would be no face-to-face classes until a vaccine against the disease is available in the country.
The school year was supposed to start in August but was moved to October to allow the Department of Education to address "logistical limitations" faced by areas that were then placed under modified enhanced community quarantine.
Duterte commends DepEd
Duterte, meanwhile, commended the DepEd for its efforts to continue the learning program for students amid the impact of the pandemic.
“May this school year be marked with strong hopes and optimism that effective learning will take place even amidst the odds and challenges,” Duterte said in his speech.
“I wish you all the best in your academic journey and mabuhay kayong lahat,” he added.
“[T]he school opening is a momentous occasion because it is pushing through despite the global health crisis due to COVID-19,” he said. “Indeed, nothing can get in the way of the instruction and formation of our learners, not even a pandemic.”
Though gone — at least for this school year — are the problems on lack of classrooms and books, it's been replaced with problems on Internet connectivity, availability of gadgets, and adjustments related to blended learning.
3M students not enrolled
Convincing parents to enroll their children for blended learning also seems to be a challenge for the government, as according to Education Undersecretary Jess Mateo, around 3 million students are still not enrolled in schools as of Monday.
Interviewed on GMA News’ Unang Hirit, Mateo said that parents can still register their children under the late enrollment policy of the department.
“Kaya nga po ‘yung 3 million pa na hindi pa pumapasok, nakikiusap tayo doon sa magulang kung sakaling may agam agam sila, meron pa silang pagkakataon dahil sa polisiya natin sa late enrollees,” he said.
Based on the 13 s. 2018, DepEd said that schools may accept late enrollees provided that the learner will be able to meet 80 percent of the prescribed number of school days for each school year.
Late enrollees should also still accomplish the quarterly requirement to pass the grade level.
According to DepEd, schools may accept late enrollees until November.
Mateo said the classes started on Monday with 24.7 million students enrolled, which is only 89% of the enrollment number from the previous school year.
Around 398,000 students from private schools have transferred to public schools amid the pandemic.
Due to the COVID-19 threat, the DepEd decided to resume classes through blended learning, where students do not have to go to school to participate in classes to avoid possible transmission of the virus.
It also removed around 60% of the curriculum to adjust for the remote learning approach this school year, which was moved from August 24 to October 5.
The department has been preparing for ways to deliver education to students through self-learning modules, broadcast media, and the internet. —KBK/RSJ, GMA News