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School opening will depend on the status of public health

Photo credit: Inquirer

The Department of Education (DepEd) said on Tuesday that the possible adjustments to the opening of classes for School Year (SY) 2020-2021 will depend on the status of public health in the coming weeks.

To ensure that the education of millions of learners will continue, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that DepEd is looking at various contingency plans.

She added, “We still assume that our school calendar will continue but we also know that anything can happen so we have contingency measures which are being undertaken,”

The use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)is one of the contingency measures being eyed by DepEd particularly online learning.

She admitted that using technology will also pose a lot of challenges to the public school system.

Online Learning during Pandemic

The DepEd was already discussing with Information Technology experts on “really connecting all schools in terms of information,” just before the COVID-19 pandemic,“we’re looking into how can we connect with any school at any time, any official at any time, and we were already starting this on a pilot basis,” Briones said.

“What we want is that whatever happens, we will know what is happening not only at the regional or at the province or at the school level, but at the classroom level as well and hopefully, we’ll be able to pick-up when things get settled down,” she added.

Briones noted as it is, IT is “really a very huge challenge based on what we have experienced ourselves and we now see even in governance the many challenges which have to be confronted just for simple conferences, just for simple connections to various places in the country.”

DepEd is preparing all the online platforms – such as “DepEd Commons” and its Open Education Resources (OERs) which could be used in delivering basic education for teachers, learners, and even parents.

While DepEd is keen to expand and strengthen its online learning platforms, Undersecretary for Administration Alain Pascua said that not “everything is within our control.” For instance, he said that telecommunications signals may affect the readiness of schools to implement online learning options.

Telecommunication company signal dependency of schools, Pascua said, plays a very big role in implementing online learning. “Out of our 47,000 schools at this time, there is still about 60 to 70 percent which has no connections to the Internet because there is no signal coming from telco, and we cannot do anything about it. That is something that is beyond the control of DepEd,” he said.

Citing DepEd data, Pascua said that 48 percent of the 47,013 public schools or about 22,645 schools have connectivity. However, he noted that the enrollment in these schools is about 16,750,902 learners which represent 74 percent of the total public school enrollment at 22,746,855.

Pascua noted that all other areas where there are signals coming from the telecommunications company, “all of these areas, all of these schools are being readied now to have access online so that we could provide them with the appropriate technology and platform that they will be needing.”

DepEd acknowledges that online learning platforms such as the “DepEd Commons” and its Open Education Resources (OERs) may not be accessible to all teachers and learners, Pascua added.

“Many of our schools still do not have connectivity and access to the Internet but in this extraordinary situation we find ourselves in, we must walk before we run and we must start somewhere and work our way towards the ideal where all teachers and learners in the country can access such resources,” Pascua said.

“Until that time, we offer DepEd Commons and OERs to those who can make use of them, as we continue to work for the connectivity of all our schools and offices,” he added.

Challenges in using ICT

School opening preparations are still “very contingent” on many factors. “One limitation even on ICT platforms is the access to such ICT platforms both the schools, the teachers and the student,” DepEd Undersecretary and spokesman Nepomuceno Malaluan said.

There might be challenges in using ICT for online learning options, DepEd will make the necessary adjustments later on.

“So, if the public health situation will call for a suspension and even work as you know now, then we’re thinking about millions of learners and thousands of schools nationwide with different levels of capacity for ICT platforms,” he added.

“It’s too early for us to make a definitive statement on the adjustments that we will have to make” when it comes to contingency measures for school opening. “But certainly, ICT, even under normal conditions will already be strengthened for the coming school years, whether on the normal condition,” he added.

Source: ManilaBulletin

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