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DepEd-CAR confirms readiness to accept over 400,000 students

Photo: Facebook/Bombo Radyo Baguio

The Department of Education (DepEd)-Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) confirms that it is now ready to accept more than 400,000 learners before classes formally open nationwide on October 5.

As of September 24, more than 400,099 students have enrolled in both public and private schools. 86,230 learners are from Benguet Province; followed by 48,108 from Ifugao Province; 38,549 from Tabuk City; 37,179 from Mountain Province; 33,319 from Kalinga province; and 23,480 from Kalinga province.

“Our initiatives from crafting our Learning Continuity Operational Plan, training of teachers and school heads, [the] conduct of mental health and psychosocial activities, to preparations of materials and delivery of learning packets would have gone in vain without the support of our stakeholders from all sectors of society — the ‘binnadang’ or ‘bayanihan’ spirit is very much active in this region,” said DepEd-CAR Regional Director May B. Eclar.

DepEd-CAR also launched its own YouTube channel, “DamiKnow”, which provides a variety of video and audio learning resources.

“We open a historic year, a victorious year because in spite of all the criticisms, the screams, the curses, and the shouts, 24 million learners still want to go to school, 50 million parents want their children to go to school, and around 900,000 teachers want to stay and continue teaching learners, as well as hundreds and thousands of staff of DepEd, have pushed themselves to the limit during the past few months to come out with appropriate responses and solutions to the challenges of the pandemic,” expressed DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones.

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Groups continue to call for and against academic freeze

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Philippines

The Department of Education (DepEd) has stressed once again that an academic freeze, which it referred to as a “populist position that is not popular”, would not be beneficial for learners and would only create delays in their learning progress.

“It does not take into consideration the adjustments that would have to be made for the succeeding school year if we continue to prolong the already four months of interruption of the learning process for this school year,” said DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan.

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) said it would only delay problems and would have a negative effect on children.

Youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), on the other hand, expressed that an academic freeze would help unprepared teachers, parents, and students.

“An academic freeze would buy valuable time for the necessary reforms to be made in order for a safe reopening of classes and greater capacity for distance learning methods,” it said.

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DepEd to create cyberbullying advocacy program for NCR

Photo: Unsplash/Thomas Park

Amid its move toward blended learning, the Department of Education-National Capital Region (DepEd-NCR) will be launching an advocacy program on cyberbullying to safeguard students spending more time on social media for school.

According to DepEd-NCR Director Malcolm Garma, DepEd is working closely with various children’s organizations as it prepares to officially start the program.

This is not the first time that DepEd released a similar program. In 2016, it launched anti-cyberbullying lessons for Grades 5 to 6 Junior High School students, in cooperation with a non-profit child care organization Stairway Foundation Inc. (SFI), as part of its CyberSafe project.

Another initiative under the CyberSafe project was DepEd’s “Dalir-Eskwela”, a play on the Filipino words for finger (“daliri”) and school (“eskwela”), a video series which taught learners tips on how to navigate the Internet in a safe manner. Aside from cyberbullying, the videos also discussed topics such as online chatting, online gaming addiction, as well as online pornography. The videos came with a brochure for the reference of the students’ parents and guardians.

Under Republic Act No. 10627 or the “Anti-Bullying Act of 2013”, all elementary and secondary schools are required to implement policies preventing and responding to acts of bullying. The law defines cyberbullying as “any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property; creating a hostile environment at school for the other student; infringing on the rights of the other student at school; or materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school.”

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DepEd: Blended learning dry runs and simulations underway

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Philippines

As teachers, pupils, and parents prepare for the opening of classes on October 5, Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo reassures the public that blended learning dry runs and simulations are being carried out in various school divisions offices (SDOs) and regional offices (ROs).

Escobedo noted that even before the original opening of classes on August 24, most schools had already finished their simulations. Many of these institutions are repeating their dry-runs in order to address any issues or gaps identified during the previous sessions, as well as to incorporate best practices

“Dry runs are being held at the school level to eliminate or minimize the issues during the past dry runs or address gaps and to observe the implementation of their newly-developed learning continuity plans and systems,” said Escobedo.

He also added that the simulations had encouraged parents to enroll their children in school. “Dry runs boosted the confidence of the parents that their children will have opportunities to continuously learn through various learning modalities amidst the COVID-19 situation,” Escobedo shared.

Blended learning dry runs and simulations were first conducted on August 10, as the country transitions to a combination of online, television, and radio-based instruction, as well as through the use of printed modules.

DepEd reported in mid-August that over 500 schools reported successful dry runs.

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Duterte to DepEd: Ensure basic level of health literacy

Photo: Facebook/Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines)

President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to promote a basic level of “health literacy skills”.

Duterte told Congress that he has instructed DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones to enable teachers to educate Filipinos on the proper skills and ways of responding to disasters or pandemics, especially on the matter of mitigating the spread of a virus.

The president further noted that through the health literacy initiative, ordinary citizens would be able to play a more active role in preventing the “creation of secondary transmission chains”.

In a televised address, Duterte shared that his Barrett’s esophagus was worsening and could nearly progress to stage one cancer. He was advised by doctors to cease drinking alcohol so as not to aggravate his disease. His directive to DepEd for health literacy skills came after he revealed the status of his condition.

Barrett’s esophagus is commonly triggered by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive disorder wherein stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. When one has Barrett’s esophagus, a lining in the tube linking the mouth to the stomach gets damaged by acid reflux and thickens. Those with the condition are more prone to developing esophageal cancer.

P754.4 billion of the proposed P4.506 trillion 2021 budget will be allocated to the education sector, primarily DepEd, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). DepEd aims to utilize the funds to support blended and flexible learning, through the production
of learning modules, acquisition of multimedia packages, and the construction of classrooms.

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DepEd looks forward to Bayanihan 2 funding

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Philippines

The Department of Education (DepEd) has expressed anticipation for the additional funds it would receive as part of the ratification of the finalized Bayanihan to Recover as One Bill or Bayanihan 2.

Once approved, Bayanihan 2 would provide an additional P4 billion worth of funds to DepEd’s distance and flexible learning program, as well as P600 million worth of allowances and subsidies for qualified learners, and P300 million worth of allowances for displaced and non-teaching staff.

DepEd Undersecretary for Finance and Spokesperson Annalyn Sevilla noted that the education bureau is making preparations for a conservative and an ideal scenario. Under the ideal scenario, DepEd will have sufficient resources and manpower, with proper training for all personnel. Under the conservative scenario, which Sevilla likened to the more realistic scenario, DepEd was caught off guard with the pandemic and with funds not being enough.

An estimated P65 billion is needed for DepEd’s Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP).

Classes are set to officially open on October 5.

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DepEd preparing benefit packages for teachers

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Philippines

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced in a virtual briefing on August 17 that it is preparing different benefit packages for its educators.

The said packages will include an annual physical examination, hazard pay, among other benefits such as an incentive for World Teacher’s Day (WTD) and to cover for COVID-19.

Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla noted that the said benefits would be distributed in September, under DepEd’s P400 million benefit. Teachers are also due to receive P1,000 each on WTD on October 5, which is also the same day classes officially open.

Sevilla also said DepEd is in talks with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Employees Compensation Commission, and PhilHealth as a response to the call of various teachers’ groups to provide aid and support for teachers and staff who got infected with COVID-19.

In a press briefing on August 17, DepEd released an official statement that it would be temporarily closing its central office in Pasig City to give way for disinfection and contact tracing. The education bureau said its operations would continue and remain uninterrupted, with all of its staff working from home.

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Teachers’ group outlines urgent measures for “safe, accessible, and quality education”

Photo: Facebook/Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines

Following the announcement of the move of the opening of classes to October 5, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) called on the Department of Education (DepEd) for changes to deliver “safe, accessible, and quality education” amid the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 pandemic.

ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio urged DepEd and the government to use the time to solve many problems surrounding the opening of classes, in a way that would not only safeguard educators’ and students’ health but also fulfill learners’ right to education.

In a Facebook post, the teachers’ group recommended the following urgent measures for the education bureau, such as the sufficient allocation of government funding for learning continuity, ensuring the implementation of health and safety protocols in schools such as health screening and testing of workers, medical personnel in school clinics, sick leaves and hazard pay for teachers, the discontinuation of the use of schools as quarantine facilities, equipping teachers and students with gadgets and Internet connectivity financial support, adequate distribution of printed modules for learners, relaxation of strict assessment tools, and the inclusion of the pandemic as a topic in the educational program.

Pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 11480, which gives the President the power to move the date of the opening of classes in the Philippines or in areas during a state of calamity, an amendment was made to Republic Act (RA) No. 7797, which states that classes must open as early as the first Monday of June but no later than the last day of August. Teachers’ groups and several lawmakers have been calling for the education bureau to delay the opening of the school year amid reports of educators not being prepared and being ill-equipped to transition to a blended learning approach.

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DepEd says broadcast typo result of technical error, won’t happen again

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Tayo

The Department of Education (DepEd) has responded to criticisms after a lecture aired on DepEd TV went viral for a typographical error.

Screenshots of a questionnaire for Grade 8 students made the rounds on social media on Wednesday, which featured erroneous grammar. The questionnaire read: “Tagaytay City is known for wonderful picturesque of the majestic Mount Taal. What does picturesque mean?”

According to DepEd Undersecretary Alain Pascua, it was the bureau’s first time to produce video educational materials, hence the test broadcasts for the upcoming school year were conducted to gauge its readiness. Pascua added that DepEd is more focused on the broadcast’s technical aspects such as the content’s recording, file conversion, up to the actual broadcasting.

“It’s true that there are mistakes on its accuracy, and even with [the material’s] grammar and typography,” said Pascua in a statement. DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones also noted that the materials came from its curriculum group, which were later on inputted by technical staff. During the said transfer and copying of the file, an error was encountered. Briones also said that such mistakes would not happen again as DepEd would undertake control measures.

The episodes are slated to go live on DepEd TV, IBC-13, DepEd radio, and on a DepEd website on August 24, part of DepEd’s blended learning approach, which combines the use of television, radio, and the Internet to deliver education.

On August 14, DepEd announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has approved its recommendation to move the opening of classes to October 5 to “provide relief to logistical implications” brought about by the imposition of a modified enhanced community quarantine on Metro Manila and certain provinces.

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Teachers’ group calls on DepEd to drop learning continuity plan

Photo: Facebook/DepEd Philippines

Teachers’ group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on Friday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to drop its learning continuity plan (LCP) as it feels the program is restrictive and does not meet the needs of Filipinos. ACT also urged the education bureau to postpone the opening of classes after Metro Manila and certain areas were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). Classes are scheduled to open on August 24.

“Malinaw ‘yung LCP ng DepEd ay hindi lapag sa lupa at hindi tugma dun sa pangangailangan ng Pilipino kaya dapat ay i-drop na ito, bitawan at mag-devise ng isang alternative form,” said ACT Philippines Secretary-General Raymond Basilio during an online briefing. ACT also explained that the LCP makes it hard for teachers to fulfill their tasks, such as reproducing self-learning modules.

(“It is clear that DepEd’s LCP is not realistic and is not aligned with Filipinos’ needs so it must be dropped, released, and an alternative form must be devised.”)

Aside from being less restrictive and more flexible, ACT also noted that the alternative learning program must not have too many deadlines so as not to create too much pressure for parents and learners and that under the LCP, many students would not be able to finish the entire school year. The teachers’ group also recommended that DepEd loosen its policies when it comes to its evaluation policies for the mass promotion of students.

Classes were earlier disrupted in March as community quarantines were implemented all over the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DepEd will be adopting a blended learning approach, which combines the use of TV, radio, and the internet as modes of instruction as face-to-face classes will be largely prohibited.

During a COVID-19 task force meeting, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said that public schools in as many as 345 areas have already conducted dry runs in preparation for the formal start of the 2020 to 2021 school year.