Lawmaker dares Briones to 'demonstrate' distance learning in poor areas

Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro on Wednesday, June 24, challenged Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones to demonstrate distance learning in "less fortunate areas."

"We challenge Secretary Briones to demonstrate the different learning modalities in less fortunate areas herself so that the education department will see how their policies would be implemented on the ground and see the consequences on quality and accessibility of education," Castro said.

According to Castro, "forcing" schools to open classes in August without the adequate equipment needed for distance learning will "ultimately sacrifice accessibility and quality education."

"DepEd policies for their back-to-school program [are] anti-poor. The education department assumes that all students are capable of teaching themselves at home using printed, soft copies, or online versions of their modules. It assumes that all students have parents that can help them learn their lessons," Castro added.

With its insistence to push through with the opening of classes, Castro said that the DepEd should ensure that "quality and accessibility of education will not be sacrificed" and "no child shall be left behind."

"Ano pa ang saysay ng pilit na pagbubukas ng pasukan kung karamihan sa mga mag-aaral, lalo na sa mga nagmula sa pinakamahihirap na pamiliya, ay walang access sa kalidad na edukasyon?" Castro asked. 

(What's the point of insisting to open classes in August when most students, especially those who come from the poorest families, don't have access to quality education?)

With only two months left before the class opening on August 24, the DepEd has yet to release specific guidelines on how distance learning will work.

Many have criticized the DepEd's decision to open schools in the middle of a health crisis. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education 'only for those who can afford')

Parents and students pointed out that the coronavirus lockdown affected household finances, and many Filipinos don't even have access to a computer or the internet. President Rodrigo Duterte himself doubted the country's capability to implement distance learning. (READ: Duterte on DepEd's distance learning: 'I don't know if we're ready')

As of Tuesday, June 23, DepEd said that over 13 million public and private school students have signed up for the opening of classes.

The initial enrollees, however, is just half of 2019's 27.7 million students.

Enrollment in basic education for school year 2020-2021 is being done remotely through phone, online platforms, and a "drop box system of enrollment," and will last until June 30. (READ: Remote enrollment in basic education will be implemented during pandemic) –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.