DepEd’s “blended learning” must have clear and concrete guidelines to ensure children’s right to education – Salinlahi

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DepEd’s “blended learning” must have clear and concrete guidelines to ensure children’s right to education - Salinlahi

“Parents and students are facing uncertainty as school year 2020 approaches, and their apprehension is understandable since the number of active cases of COVID-19 in the country has spiked instead of flattening. While the blended learning program being proposed by the Department of Education (DepEd) will somehow reduce the risk of coronavirus infection among children, the lack of clear guidelines on how it will be implemented is a valid concern.” This is the statement of the child advocacy group Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, after Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones presented the blended learning strategy for the upcoming school year.

According to Eule Rico Bonganay, Secretary General of the group, the DepEd should consider that a great number of students, especially children from the poor and disadvantaged families, have limited access to gadgets and stable internet connection. “Unless such problems are immediately resolved, we fear that it may result to further marginalization and disenfranchisement of children’s right to education,” Bonganay added.

He emphasized that after the almost three months of community quarantine with most breadwinners living on a “no work, no pay” basis, majority of Filipino families are now struggling to make ends meet and the proposed online distance learning entails additional burden and expenses for them. “The government should provide computers for students and teachers. At the same time, it should address the weak internet connectivity in both urban and rural areas. It should also ensure the timely distribution of printed modules and monitoring sheets among students with due consideration for the safety and welfare of teachers,” Bonganay noted. He further stressed the need for the provision of necessary benefits and hazard pay for teachers who will be tasked to physically report to work or conduct home visitations. Health check-ups for both teachers and students involved in face-to-face learning should also be done regularly to ensure against COVID infection.

Aside from the lack of access to resources, the proposed blended learning does not also guarantee quality of education. “It will be a great challenge for both teachers and students, especially those who are lacking digital literacy, to adapt to the new modalities of teaching and learning. Parents will also take an important role in guiding their children so they should also be well oriented about the distance learning program. More importantly, there should be a regular monitoring mechanism to assess its impact as well as to identify the gaps for proper resolution,” he suggested.

In order to address existing barriers and avoid the ensuing challenges, Salinlahi urged the government to ensure the immediate allocation of funds for the education department. “The government should be quick in coming up with ideas on how to reach children and to make learning happen. Nevertheless, online learning is not a substitute for face-to-face schooling. Thus, it is really important for the government to lay down comprehensive, effective, humane and participatory solution to the pandemic and the socio-economic implications of the lockdown,” he ended. ###


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