Flattening the Curve
COVID-19 COMPOUNDED the annual round of challenges faced by the Department of Education: overcrowding in schools, the shortage of teachers and the lack of supplies. With the pandemic preventing physical presence in schools, the system itself confronted existential questions. Prior to the March lockdown, some private schools cancelled classes. But even as some areas transitioned from the strictest ECQ to the more relaxed GCQ, schools remained empty and students had to stay home longer than expected.
In May, media reported on the government’s plans to proceed with the incoming school year set traditionally to start in June. A crucial internal disagreement about when schools would open went unresolved. DepEd originally proposed a mix of distance learning and regular face-to-face classes, but Duterte insisted that there would be no physical classes because he said young students had to be protected, and only vaccines could do that.
The shift to alternative learning methods included TV classes, online and other digital formats for teaching. All evoked a range of concerns from stakeholders: the reluctance of parents to enroll their children, poor wi-fi and connectivity issues, and a lack of confidence in the capacity of teachers to adapt to different pedagogical methods. Enrollments declined especially in the private schools because of the loss of incomes from job displacement even among OFW families. Students with special needs were pushed further to the margins.
Different reporters took up these problems, but the disjointed accounts failed to present the deepening crisis in both the short- and -long term. Coverage was largely reactive, echoing the government’s assurances but failing to take into account that such a broad issue required a societal response and should have involved more policy groups and agencies apart from DepEd. Unfortunately, neither media nor government acknowledged this need.
Classes finally opened on October 5. Media attention was fixed on the technical glitches; inaccessibility of online learning materials; the glaring errors, stereotypes and biases in the modules and lectures, some of which were criticized on social media. DepEd responded by enabling a reporting mechanism called DepEd Error Watch.
Since then, the issue has not been raised as a crucial and fundamental concern. Even without the pandemic, the educational system had been beleaguered enough by systemic problems. The decline in learning will surely show up, if it has not yet sufficiently reared its head. But no one seems to want to come out openly to discuss what can be done to mitigate the damage and loss that affects the future of the nation.
READ CMFR MONITORS ON THE ISSUE:
- “But the public exchange revealed the disagreement within government about when classes could resume. President Duterte said on May 25 that schools should not open until a vaccine becomes available. Health Secretary Francisco Duque had earlier said the DepEd’s proposed date would be safe, with the observance of health standards, but backtracked to echo the president, insisting on the necessity of a vaccine. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that Duterte meant face-to-face classes should not resume. Media added nothing much to this exchange.” |Disjointed coverage fails to report the huge crisis in education