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Coalition of private schools urges gov't to fund online and distance learning

A coalition of private schools' groups on Tuesday urged the government to fund the online and distance education in both public and private schools, amid uncertainties in the resumption of classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) issued a joint statement after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that there will be no classes until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

“Education is an essential activity, and a critically affected sector. It needs to continue. And it needs government support,” the group said.

It said the government would save more in funding the online and distance education of students in schools than providing cash assistance to affected employees “if education is indefinitely stalled.”

COCOPEA appealed to Duterte to allow “experts” to continue in developing modes “to deliver education without asking our students to go back to school physically as we all work hard to bring back the confidence to continue learning amidst the pandemic.”

According to the coalition, the indefinite suspension of school opening until the vaccine is found alleviates pressure on the healthcare systems on short term.

“But certainly this will strain and put more pressure on our already failing economy,” it said.

Malacanang has already clarified that Duterte was referring to face-to-face classes when he made the statement.

To affect parents

COCOPEA said the parents of 27 million basic education students would have to stay home to take care of their children and not able to work.

“This would affect the economic abilities of families to support their daily needs and would turn to the government for ‘ayuda.’”

Aside from this, COCOPEA said 4 million college students’ educational attainment would be delayed. In some cases, the group said students would set aside finishing the course.

“Lack of graduates would create a crisis in the needed professionals for our country’s development including healthcare professionals and other front liners,” it said.

“There would be ‘brain drain’ as teachers and faculty leave the academe to pursue other work elsewhere,” it added.

The group raised that employees in private schools are not guaranteed of their salaries amid the suspension classes.

“Health remains to be a top priority, but isn’t it why we are all working on to deliver education through other modes other than face to face?” COCOPEA said.

The joint statement was signed by the presidents of the following associaltions: Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, & Universities; Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities; Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities; Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines; and Technical Vocational Schools Association.

In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, COCOPEA managing director Joseph Noel Estrada said that they were surprised by Duterte's pronouncement.

"Nagulat kaming lahat at nasurpresa. Kami po ay naghahanda na sa pagbubukas ng klase using online, blended , and distance learning. Hindi naman natin pinag-uusapan 'yung physical na pagbabalik ng mga bata," Estrada said.

"'Yung pronouncement ng Presidente, hindi ngayon malinaw kung totally ba ipinagbabawal ang school opening dahil may mga nabanggit din siya doon sa kaniyang pahayag, which we consider as policy statements," he added. --KBK, GMA News