Distance learning sessions start in few private schools


WHILE classes in public schools will open on Aug. 24, 2020 yet, a few private schools in Cebu and Siquijor have started conducting distance learning sessions since June.

Department of Education Central Visayas Director Salustiano Jimenez said Monday, Aug. 10, that some private schools in Siquijor resumed classes in June and July, when the island-province still had zero case of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Some private schools in Lapu-Lapu City and Cebu Province also resumed operations recently.

Jimenez said less than 10 private schools have started holding classes as of Monday.

Only around 124,000 learners have enrolled in private schools across Central Visayas this year, about 38 percent of the 320,000 enrollees in 2019.

Jimenez said, however, the number is expected to increase as more private school administrators encode their enrollment figures in the DepEd database by Aug. 15.

Private schools are allowed to exercise discretion on the opening of classes, but they have to apply for it first and submit a learning continuity plan, which shall specify the learning delivery modality that they will employ.

In lieu of face-to-face learning sessions, which are temporarily prohibited until a vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is approved, DepEd is implementing three types of distance learning: online learning, modular distance learning and TV/radio-based instruction.

In public schools across the region, enrollment has reached 1.6 million as of Aug. 10, fewer than the 2.2 million in 2019 but already a “good number” in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jimenez noted, however, that the national target is to reach only 80 percent of the 2019 enrollment figures.

Nationwide, more than 20 million learners have already enrolled.

Class opening

Classes will start as scheduled on Aug. 24 in public schools and most private schools nationwide despite calls to delay the opening of school year 2020-2021, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said in a virtual press conference Monday.

There will be no face-to-face learning sessions, in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Gusto lang naming ulitin, tuloy pa rin tayo sa Aug. 24, formal school opening. ‘Yun ang napagkasunduan, in-approve ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), in-approve sa Department of Education, at in-approve ng Presidente,” Briones said.

She said Aug. 24 is the last day allowed by law for the opening of a new school year in the country.

This will no longer be moved because there will be no face-to-face sessions anyway, she added.

Briones noted that only the Philippines and Cambodia have not resumed classes in Southeast Asia.

She said classes in Vietnam opened in May while classes in Singapore started in June. Most of the other Southeast Asian countries resumed classes in July.

As of Aug. 9, however, Vietnam had reported only 841 coronavirus cases, Singapore had 55,104 and the Philippines had 129,913 cases.

Learning methodologies

Under DepEd’s blended learning scheme, limited face-to-face classes would have been allowed in areas with few or zero cases of Covid-19.

With the prohibition against face-to-face sessions, however, classes will be conducted through distant learning methods.

Self-learning modules will be made available in print or digital formats, according to DepEd’s learning continuity program.

Electronic copies of the learning materials may be delivered through CDs, DVDs, USBs, or offline e-books.

Learning materials will also be available through the DepEd Commons, an online platform that may be accessed for free through Globe or Smart, and through TV and radio stations.

Under modular distance learning, the teacher will monitor the progress of the learners via email, telephone, or text/instant messaging. A family member will need to serve as para-teacher.

In online distance learning, the teacher will serve as facilitator and engage learners through videoconferencing or live instruction. The learners may download materials, complete and submit assignments online, and attend webinars and virtual classes.

For TV/radio-based instruction, learning materials will be converted to video lessons or radio scripts.

Briones reiterated that classes must continue even during calamities because children have the right to education.

She said there have been studies that showed that if classes are disrupted by more than two months, learners tend to forget past lessons.

Meanwhile, DepEd 7 has yet to verify reports of some students selling their nude photos and sex videos online to raise funds for their online classes.

Jimenez said they have yet to determine whether the sellers are in K-to-12 or in college.

DepEd, however, does not have jurisdiction over them because classes have not started, he added.

He also lamented insinuations that these illegal transactions are happening because the students are being required to procure a smartphone or laptop/desktop/tablet computer.

Jimenez clarified that students under modular distance learning would not need to buy gadgets. (JJL and SunStar Philippines)