Distance learning woes aired anew amid DepEd’s proposal to extend academic year

February 18, 2021 - 1:10 PM
Children take online classes as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak stokes demand for internet services, in Tondo, Manila, Philippines, October 6, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo)

Students lamented the Department of Education‘s proposal to extend the current academic year, citing the struggles of distance learning.

The strict lockdowns imposed in March last year to supposedly contain the spread of the virus which causes COVID-19 prompted the DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education to implement a blended learning or distance learning approach to push through with the academic year.

As the academic year draws to a close, an official of DepEd in a televised interview said that the agency is considering to shorten the summer break from two months to two weeks.

“Hindi na magkakaroon ng mahabang break sa pagitan ng dalawang taong pasukan. Baka dalawang linggo lang. Pag-uusapan din ‘yan,” said Education undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio in a GMA News interview on Wednesday.

In addition to this, the school year may also be extended, San Antonio said. This would give the students more time to complete their requirements.

“Kami may balak na mag-propose na dalawang linggo ngayong quarter, so ibig sabihin magmo-move ‘yung school calendar ng dalawang linggo pag na-approve ito,” the official said.

He cited a field report that only 99% of students managed to submit their school requirements. He noted that this translates to “20 something million.”

“Hindi naman dahil nakakapag-submit, natututo,” San Antonio said.

More than 24 million students reportedly enrolled in basic education system in 2020. Of these, around 22.5 million of them are enrolled in public schools.

However, this is still 89% less than last year’s enrollees. This means, around three million students were not able to enroll or have dropped out of school.

Thumbs down from the public

The DepEd’s proposal was opposed by some students and teachers on social media, making the word “DepEd” trend on Twitter Philippines on Thursday.

It topped the local Twitter’s trending list with more than 34,900 tweets under its belt. They argued their plight with adjusting to modular classes which were poorly planned from the start.

“DepEd wanting the summer break of students from 2 months into 2 weeks shows that they don’t have empathy towards the students, teachers, and parents,” a Twitter user said.

“Class extension with 2-week summer break this year? Seriously, Deped? For what? So the students could learn more? Do you think we learned something from this online and modular classes,” another wrote.

“You advocate mental health but can’t even listen to our pleas, how disappointing,” another user said.

Several students merely shared memes to voice out their frustrations.

Some users on Facebook and Reddit likewise noted that the extension is futile if students are no longer absorbing the lessons in the first place.

“Kahit mahaba or maigsi ang school year it doesn’t matter siguro. ang importante kung may natutunan ba ang mga bata, kahit pahabain pa school year kung wala naman natutunan bata, useless lang din. its the quality of education that counts,” the user said.

“Lakas maka burnout nito sa mga kids. Hindi na nga sila makalabas wala pa silang break from school,” another said.

Some parents also aired their complaints.

“Tatlo ho anak kong napasok kaya pag ka gising pa lang module na ang hawak hanggang hapon na. Minsan inaabot pa ng gabi lalo’t ang daming summative tests at performance tasks na pinapagawa sa mga bata,” the user commented.

Even before the opening of classes in August 2020, students launched their own donation drives on social media to purchase laptops and tablets to be used for distance learning.

There were then numerous reports of glaring errors in modules in print, online and broadcast from various subjects such as math, music and history.

The onslaught of strong typhoons in November of that year also brought in more challenges for students and teachers such as soiled modules, damaged properties and displaced communities.

In a Palace press briefing on Thursday, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said a DepEd’s survey showed that “more than 50 percent of students” wanted to resume face-to-face learning.

Briones cited that the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not yet resumed physical classes. Resumption, will however, still be discussed by local government units before implementation.