As it scrambles to shift to distance learning, the Department of Education (DepEd) is grappling with a dismal turnout of 15.9 million students for K-12 public and private schools heading into Tuesday, supposedly the last day of an unprecedented monthlong online enrollment. The number was 12 million pupils short of the 28 million target earlier set by Education Secretary Leonor Briones, prompting DepEd to extend until July 15 the deadline for enrollment for the incoming school year.
The dismal enrollment figures came as the government allocated P700 million to provide internet connection for 7,000 public schools shifting to distance learning amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
In his 14th report to Congress, President Duterte said DepEd wanted to increase the total number of public schools with Internet access.
“The target completion of the project, which costs P700 million will be in 10 months,” the President said in a report released on Tuesday.
DepEd has moved full steam ahead with plans to open the academic year on Aug. 24 amid skepticism from lawmakers and Mr. Duterte over whether the country is capable of implementing its ambitious distance-learning program on a national scale.
Though face-to-face classes have been postponed until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, DepEd had said it would offer a menu of options to schools that included online classes, printed and self-taught modules, and television and radio instruction.
The speed of DepEd’s preparations for these models was called into question at a Senate basic education committee hearing on Thursday, with the agency saying that survey forms issued to students over the enrollment period would fill current blind spots in its data.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the country’s largest teachers’ union, attributed the low enrollment numbers to DepEd’s alleged failure to craft a plan attuned to the needs of families that lost livelihoods due to quarantine measures aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19.
“We urge DepEd officials to open their eyes to reality. The pandemic has gravely disrupted the lives of our people,” ACT said in a statement. “How can we expect these families to pretend that the situation is normal and their children can go on with formal education?”
Of the 15.9 million registered students, 15.2 million were headed to public schools with only 672,403 in private institutions, which have sounded the alarm over potential mass closures.
The Calabarzon region had the highest number of enrolled pupils overall on Tuesday morning with 2.3 million, followed by Metro Manila and Central Luzon (each with 1.7 million), Central Visayas (1.2 million), Western Visayas (1 million) and Bicol (1 million).
There were 7.8 million students enrolled in elementary, 5 million in Junior High School, 1.7 million in Senior High School, 1 million in Kindergarten, 187,923 in an Alternative Learning System and 43,395 differently abled learners not enrolled in a particular grade level.
The 2019-2020 academic year saw 28 million students enrolled in public and private schools. INQ
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