DepEd: We delivered despite the pandemic

As the education sector slowly recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Education (DepEd) continued to use distance education during the opening of the 2021 school year -2022.

With the de-escalation of quarantine alert levels, DepEd gradually tested the holding of limited face-to-face classes.

Under Secretary of Education for Programs and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio Photo by DepEd

Under Secretary of Education for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio acknowledged that they still face challenges in implementing new learning modalities.

The department also faced the challenge of producing quality learning resources.

DepEd also had to struggle with limited access to high-speed internet connection, especially in remote areas.

San Antonio, however, believes that DepEd has been able to fulfill its mandate of providing basic education services.

“We are able to implement the learning continuity plan in accordance with our strategies – our teachers and staff have been able to demonstrate sufficient competence and capacity for innovation to ensure that efforts aimed at to provide students with learning opportunities have been deployed correctly, in accordance with our strategies, ”explained San Antonio.

He said that when implementing distance education in second grade, teachers and students were able to adapt better this school year given their experiences from the previous year.

“Reports that it is more difficult to do things now with the new modalities has diminished considerably,” he added.

Turnitin, a global company working directly with schools to ensure the integrity of assessment and significantly improve learning outcomes, observed that schools continue to take deliberate steps to make education accessible to all. students.

Jack Brazel, Turnitin’s business partnerships manager for Southeast Asia, said schools had learned a lot over the past year about best practices for ensuring continuity of learning, which is why the focus on delivering learning has shifted to successful program implementation.

“Schools have mainly focused on the ‘no student left behind’ initiative, which means that those with weak and good internet connections have equal access to learning, thus ensuring the same learning outcome from the design of the program of varied learning modalities “, he explained.

“Entering the second year of the pandemic, schools are looking to design a curriculum to ensure that students learn and develop them, ensuring that learners are ready to integrate into society and to develop. contribute, ”added Brazel.

27.2 million learners in basic education

Enrollment in basic education reached 27.2 million learners as of November 15. This showed an overall increase of 4 percent in enrollment – or the equivalent of 1.005 million more students for this school year – in public and private schools, including Philippine Schools Abroad (PSO) and state and local universities and colleges (SUC / LUC) offering basic education.

DepEd said he welcomes this turnout, acknowledging the feedback from learners who have chosen to postpone their registration to SY 2020-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our learners last year continued their participation in formal school this year, and a considerable number of those who skipped last year have returned to school,” he said.

He also noted that enrollment figures could reach 28 million once schools finish updating their database with the late enrollment extension this year.

Despite better enrollment rates, there were still 520 schools out of an estimated 61,000 schools nationwide that were declared non-operational this year: 47 were public schools, 437 were private schools, 25 were SUCs or LUCs. and 11 were PSOs.

Gradual reopening of physical classes

With Covid-19 cases in the country on a downward trend, DepEd has also maximized its efforts to send children back to physical schools with the pilot implementation of face-to-face lessons from last November to kindergarten to grade 3 students, as well as some high school students requiring laboratory work and technical-vocational training.

About 300 schools nationwide have reopened to students while ensuring strict implementation of health and safety protocols using the School Safety Assessment Tool (SSAT) developed by DepEd and the Department of Health (DoH) to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus in person. Classes.

Starting in 2022, San Antonio expects all schools to be able to reopen for in-person classes for the 2022-2023 school year, as the expanded phase of limited face-to-face classes could begin by here. the start of 2022, after the head of education Leonor Briones asked all schools to start their preparations to comply with SSAT.

“We expect to be able to transition to the new mainstream normal in the K to 12 program, with the new standard providing the blended learning modalities to our students. Once the Covid-19 situation is well managed, especially with the downward trend in new positive cases, learners will be more autonomous in their choices about how they learn, ”he added.

DepEd is configured to assess the conduct of the pilot study in these schools, taking into account best practices to strengthen the implementation of in-person courses, as well as noting any obstacles and challenges encountered – including proposed changes. Course Conduct – to suggest next steps to expand face-to-face course coverage to more schools per region.

Meanwhile, in higher education, colleges and universities have also been given the green light from the Higher Education Commission to hold limited face-to-face classes, but only for students, faculty members and school personnel fully immunized.

For those still unvaccinated, flexible learning modalities – including online and offline modalities – could still be used by higher education institutions (HEIs) for their students.

Higher education institutions should also show that they have carried out the necessary checks for a strict implementation of health standards for in-person courses and an appropriate modernization of their facilities.

As 2022 approaches, basic and higher education are studying the smooth transition from blended distance education to the gradual reopening of schools as new cases of Covid-19 continue to decline.

San Antonio has reminded the public not to indulge in the implementation of health and safety protocols as the risk of transmitting the virus still exists. He stressed that DepEd will continue to monitor the situation, especially in face-to-face lessons, to put the learning standards in place as part of the new normal.

Brazel also added that blended learning modalities are here to stay to give learners more options for students, whichever method of teaching works best for them.

“Many schools will want students to return to class for its obvious benefit, while the hybrid modality will always be maintained – I think that would be the path regardless of the pandemic. Schools could build on what they did. have learned and learned during the pandemic and it’s exciting to see schools upgrade everything, ”he said.

Revised Kindergarten to Grade 10 Curriculum

With the change of administration following the 2022 polls, DepEd is set to unveil a revised program, following recommendations from the experts who revised it. He will also provide the next heads of DepEd with a basic education development plan for 2030, with current priorities in terms of access, quality and governance, but also stressing the need for equitable means of delivering education. and focus on the resilience of children and educators.

“We hope to unveil before the end of our term in 2022 the revisions to the K-10 curriculum in response to our findings – the curriculum is really crowded and we need to pay attention to the basics: reading, math, and socio-emotional skills. for our children in the early years, ”he added.

He said Briones herself had urged DepEd’s executive committee to come up with reforms to improve the quality of education in the country. He added that the ministry recognizes the need to redouble its efforts to ensure better quality education – hopefully, as evidenced by better scores on international assessments, as well as with its national achievement test.

San Antonio also highlighted the department’s efforts to enable teachers to design programs and assessments to ensure that learners are able to comply with expected learning skills.

With the continued delivery of distance learning modalities and in-person classes in basic and higher education, these agencies hope that classes will be conducted safely with little or no risk of transmission of Covid-19 and, hopefully, remedy the learning losses caused by the pandemic with the return of students to class.

Norma A. Roth