At least 24.7 million Filipino children went online on Monday, October 5, as primary and secondary schools started classes across the Philippines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Education announced that close to 25 million students enrolled this year in the country’s 47,000 public schools.
Without face-to-face classes, children attend classes through various education modalities with the guidance of parents and teachers.
Under the distance learning system, learners take their lessons using printed or digitized modules, online, or through television or radio-based instruction.
Depending on available resources and capabilities, schools across the country are allowed to implement “blended learning” or a combination of two or more learning delivery modalities.
The Education department said there are 24.74 million students enrolled in public and private schools, or 89.02 percent of last year’s turnout at 27.85 million.
Private schools, which were allowed to start classes earlier, have a current enrollment of 2.16 million.
Due to the changes in the education landscape, DepEd is anticipating issues and problems in the implementation of distance learning.
“But just like when moving to a new house, we don’t know what needs to be fixed unless we move in,” said Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
Despite the challenges ahead, Briones believes that being able to resume classes amid a pandemic is already a big feat.
“October 5 is a celebration, a declaration of victory for the Filipino child because whatever challenges we are facing, education will continue, the learning of children will continue,” she said.
Church support for teachers
As classes start, the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education of the Catholic bishops’ conference wished teachers well as they play their role in the education of children.
“Remember that the Lord, your co-teachers, and the parents of the children are always with you as exercise your mission,” said Bishop Roberto Mallari, chairman of the commission.
October 5 has been declared by the United Nations as World Teachers’ Day.
“I understand the sacrifices that are demanded of us as teachers,” said the prelate.
“I pray that the Lord will grant you love of God, of the country, and the children that are entrusted to you,” he added.
Party-list group ACT Teachers, meanwhile, called on the government to honor teachers on World Teachers’ Day “with adequate funds for the safe reopening of schools.”
Representative France Castro expressed hope that teachers will be given priority in the government’s proposed national budget for next year.
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers look for funds to be able to still deliver their duties amid health risks,” he said.
In recent months, close to 1,000 private schools have closed due to the pandemic, leaving about 100,000 private school teachers jobless.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Students of the Philippines expressed concern over the “grave adjustments and woes of the people” as classes opened.
Jandeil Roperos, the group’s spokesperson, hit the government’s “passivity despite the already postponed class opening.”
The students’ organization criticized the Education department for reportedly entertaining 89 tuition and other fee increases for the incoming school year despite the pandemic.
On Sunday, October 4, the Philippines reported its biggest daily spike of COVID-19 cases in nearly two weeks.
The Health department recorded 3,190 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily increase since September 21, bringing its total confirmed infections to 322,497, the highest tally in Southeast Asia.
Authorities reported an additional 100 deaths due to the infections, the country’s highest daily record since September 14, taking its death toll to 5,776.
President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier said that classes should resume only when a COVID-19 vaccine has been made available, fearing classrooms could become infection hotspots.
The opening of the school year was initially scheduled on August 24 but was moved to October 5 in consideration of the “modified enhanced community quarantine” in several provinces of the country.