Alliance of Concerned Teachers hits DepEd as 7 million students still unenrolled

A teachers’ group on Monday, July 13, criticized the Department of Education (DepEd) for failing around 7 million students with regard to enrollment in the coming school opening on August 24. 

"While DepEd’s latest enrollment data show that 19.5 million learners have enlisted for the coming school year, this does not necessarily mean that all of them will push through with or complete the school year," Raymond Basilio, secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said. 

As of Monday, DepEd enrollment data showed a total of 19,534,836 students have registered for the school opening. This is just 70% of last year’s 27.7 million students. 

The enrollment, which is being done remotely, is extended until July 15.

"One child left behind is one too many, and the government is duty-bound to ensure each and every Filipino’s exercise of all of their constitutionally guaranteed rights," Basilio said.

ACT also said the education of the 19.5 million million students is "bound to suffer due to the agency’s unprepared learning modalities under its new normal."

"We are deeply troubled at the rate school opening preps are going. DepEd’s failure to prove substantial progress on immediate requisites for a safe return to schools and accessible quality education may very well lead to the postponement of classes," Basilio said. 

The DepEd has yet to release the specific guidelines on the distance learning approach. 

As of July 1, the DepEd’s units were "busy preparing the self-learning modules for all subjects and grade levels."

Meanwhile, regional offices are adjusting the distance learning programs to make them more suitable to the situation on the ground. (WATCH: EXPLAINER: Handa na bang magbukas ng klase sa Agosto 24 ang Pilipinas?)

Low enrollment turnout

In a virtual press briefing on July 1, Secretary Leonor Briones said DepEd anticipates a lower turnout in general, as they understand that not all parents can enroll their children in school due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The department estimates an enrollment turnout this year of 80%.

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')

The DepEd decided to shift to distance learning for the coming school year to comply with the President's directive for schools to postpone face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

Distance learning will be implemented in 3 ways – through online classes, printed materials, and broadcasting classes through television and radio. (READ: FAST FACTS: DepEd's distance learning)

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, unemployment in the country soared to 17.7% in April 2020, equivalent to around 7.3 million jobless Filipinos amid the pandemic.

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations, as well as the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, estimate that over 400 private schools might just close down due to lack of enrollees.

Despite calls for delaying classes, the DepEd said its preparations were "underway." – 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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