PRRD: No vaccine, no opening of classes; online learning system bills pushed in congress

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MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte had finally spoken about the opening of classes during his late night virtual press briefing on Monday, May 25.  He said that “unless I am sure that they (children and teachers) are really safe, it is useless to be talking about opening of classes. Unless there is a vaccine.”

The education sector for the past several weeks has been in quandary of whether or not classes for school year 2020-21 would start as mandated by law between June 1 to August 31. Judging from the severity of Covid-19 pandemic, and the present health status of the country after two months of community quarantine, however, the Department of Education (DepEd) surmised that August 24 would be the best schedule for class opening in the public sector while it is up to the private sector to start as early as June.

The recent pronouncement paved the way for DepEd to make the best of the situation while fulfilling its mission of providing equality education for all through alternative and creative ways like having online classes, and distance learning, among others.  And other institutions followed suit.

Some members of congress have filed their bills on what they may perceive as new normal education system in the country after the pandemic.  On his part, Deputy House Speaker Aurelio Gonzales filed H.B. No. 876 providing for an “Online Learning System” in the country.  He said the features of his proposal include no physical contact, and no face-to-face classes of students and their teachers.  

“Pag-uusapan sa DepEd ang porma nitong distance learning at hybrid education system kung saan matuto ang mga bata sa kanilang bahay gamit ang mga application sa internet,” (It will be discussed with DepEd the forms and details of this distance learning and hybrid education system wherein children can learn while staying at home and using the applications provided in the internet) Rep. Velasco said. The congressman acknowledged they have yet to overcome the challenges of his bill and similar bills of his colleagues in congress before it becomes a new norm of education. Many Filipino families have no computers and communication devices that are needed by their children.  Furthermore, the country has yet to improve its internet service to make it more accessible and to ensure that online education is successful. The Philippines has one of the slowest internet connections in Southeast Asia. 

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