Private schools to DepEd: Review 'non-negotiable' distance learning requirements

Private schools on Wednesday, June 24, urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to review its "non-negotiable" requirements on distance learning that, they said, were finalized without any public consultation.

Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) managing director Joseph Noel Estrada said that the DepEd requirements "would further marginalize struggling private schools."  (READ: FAST FACTS: DepEd’s distance learning)

Estrada said DepEd should review its Department Order No. 13, which set the distance learning checklist, and make it more inclusive.

"What private schools need now is policy interventions to allow it to transition to flexible learning modalities with ease, in an inclusive and less regulatory policy environment," he said.

"DO [Department Order] 13 is inconsistent with DepEd's own learning continuity plans. How can there be continuity of learning if DepEd itself provides the regulatory barriers for schools to continue?" asked Estrada. 

Estrada said that no consultation was made before the order was issued. 

"No public consultation, no publication before it was issued. This is not an inter-agency or inter-office memo. For this magnitude of impact to schools and even learners, it behooves DepEd to follow administrative due process in it's quasi-legislative function," Estrada said. 

"I wonder if these are also 'non-negotiable' of public schools, and who checks them?" he added.

In the department order, DepEd provided the following checklist for private schools on "non-negotiable" requirements for distance learning:

Online distance learning
  • An educational platform or Learning Management System, either subscription-based or locally developed
  • Technical expertise to run and support the educational system 24/7
  • Email facility or domain name for teachers and students
  • Help desk personnel working under the platform whose task is to answer queries.
  • Complete and appropriate content for the whole first quarter
  • Assessment tools for the students to be updated and reviewed regularly
  • Institutionalize the training and updating of teachers on the use of technology
  • Orient the teachers, parents, and students on the policies of distance learning
  • Technology knowledge enhancement program where regular trainings are given to teachers, students, and parents
  • Teachers should be well-oriented on DepEd policies relating to distance learning
  • Teachers and students should have access to the necessary resources to access the lessons
  • Parents should have expressed willingness for the option of online distance learning
  • Parents should be willing to co-supervise the learning of their children
Modular distance learning
  • Orient teachers, parents, and students about the modular learning policies and directions
  • Complete learning modules for the first quarter in print and e-copy to be distributed to students
  • Complete references or suplementary materials for distribution to students
  • Parents should have expressed willingness for the option of modular distance learning
  • Parents should be willing to co-supervise the learning of their children

'Walk the talk'

Estrada said that considering the strong public pressure from parents, including government officials, to reduce tuition fee and not to impose a tuition hike, "where will the private schools get the financial wherewithal to fund the 'non-negotiable' minimum requirements?"

On June 10, Secretary Leonor Briones said tuition fee increases in private schools should be approved by DepEd's regional directors, and should be "justified." (READ: Tuition fee hike in private schools should be justified – DepEd)

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on Wednesday slammed DepEd for its "hypocrisy" in setting requirements for private schools while it could not commit providing the same requirements for public schools.

"The requirements it demands from private schools are the same ones teachers and parents have been calling for in the public sector, but to which DepEd has not committed," ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said in a statement

Basilio also said that TV and radio-based instruction is the "most absurd" of all the learning modalities. He questioned the feasibility of implementing the medium while ensuring quality of education.

"The airtime needed in order to deliver learning for each subject and each grade level is overwhelmingly huge, which might take away most of the station’s airtime and will definitely cost huge sums of money on the part of the education institution. Then for what? What kind of education will our youth receive?" Basilio said. 

With roughly two months left before class opening on August 24, 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 schools students have signed up for the opening of classes. 

The initial enrolees, however, is just half of last year's 27.7 million students

The enrollment for basic education for this school year is being done remotely through phone or online platforms, and will last until June 30. (READ: Remote enrollment in basic education will be implemented during pandemic) – Rappler.com

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.

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