After postponing the school opening twice due to the pandemic, the Department of Education (DepEd) formally opened a new school year without face-to-face classes Monday.

DEPED123 - DepEd cites smooth opening of classes, but teachers say otherwise
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Education Secretary Leonor Briones led the National National School Opening Day Program and declared a “great victory” over the COVID-19 pandemic since over 24.7 million students – 22. 5 million in public schools and 2.1 million in private schools – have decided to enroll for School Year (SY) 2020-2021.

In a recorded message, President Duterte congratulated DepEd for the smooth school opening. “The school opening of this year is momentous because it is pushing through despite the global health crisis due to COVID-19,” he said.

In lieu of face-to-face classes, students are learning inside their homes through the distance or blended learning approaches. Based on what they have chosen in the Learner Enrollment Survey Form (LESF), students will be learning under various learning delivery modalities: Modular (printed or offline); online learning; and television or radio-based instruction. Some will be under blended learning in which two or more of the modalities are combined.

DepEd said that the modular distance learning is the “most preferred modality” among the options in the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP). There are 9,424,925 learners who chose modular; 4,171,719 chose combination of modalities or blended; 3,628,636 for online; 1,324,803 for TV; 977,929 for radio, and 531,229 others. Some students have chosen multiple answers, DepEd said.

DepEd Undersecretary Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan said that based on the reports from field units and offices, “schools were generally ready for the first day of classes.”

Many schools, Malaluan said, have already distributed the self learning modules (SLMs). However, he noted that be “residuals” since some SLMs were not yet distributed because the parents or guardians failed to claim or pick these up.

Most students, Malaluan said, have also started on their SLMs while others watched educational videos or listened to radio scripts. “Overall, we turn a page or a chapter in this very extraordinary year with this first day of classes – the opening of SY 2020-2021,” he said.

In the coming weeks or months, Malaluan said that DepEd “will face now the challenge of the learning process throughout the school year.” He added that while this year might be a year of adjustment, feedback, learning, victories, and challenges, “we are confident that the resilience of DepEd and our partners at all levels will see us through.”

DepEd executive committee members and service and bureau directors were in full force on the ground and provided live updates on the implementation of distance learning during the first day of classes in the different field offices or schools they have visited.

However, some teachers and students reportedly struggled with various issues related to the alternative learning delivery modalities under the blended and distance learning approach.

As part of its school opening activities, members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) conducted school visits in the National Capital Region (NCR) and saw various problems in school.

“Even Metro schools are yet to finish the module printing and distribution so where is the ‘victorious’ here?” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said. “In several cases also, only half of those enrolled in the online modality attended their first day of classes, some were much lower,” he added.

Based on the school opening monitoring of ACT, some teachers under the work-from-home (WFH) set up in Manila expressed struggle with Internet connection.

“One teacher failed to attend one of her scheduled orientation in the morning due to connectivity issues,” the group said. “Several teachers from Manila expressed that around half of their class couldn’t get into the meeting room for the same reason,” ACT added.

The group also received reports that “some students had to climb their rooftops to get enough mobile signal despite the clear dangers of such, while others considered availing ‘piso-net’ in computer shops but opted not to as it may still be prohibited.”

Some teachers, ACT said, shared that they have run out of data allocation from the local government units (LGUs) because of several dry-runs, orientations, and the like in the previous days. “A Caloocan principal shared that teachers are still printing modules at their school following delays due to funding concerns,” the group added.

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