By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Despite the “same old” problems – lack of classrooms, teachers and other basic education resources – reported by some public schools on the first day of classes, the Department of Education (DepEd) said the opening of School Year (SY) 2019-2020 has been “so far, so good.”
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, when asked to give an initial assessment on the school opening, said that the opening of classes this school year was generally smooth and orderly despite the usual back-to-school challenges brought about by the demands of the ever-growing enrollment.
Briones noted that the state of readiness of DepEd – prior to the actual school opening – is always at 99 percent.
However, she said that “change is the only thing that is permanent” so no matter how much the department prepares, it will still have to make adjustments on the actual situation during the school opening.
As early as last year, Briones said that DepEd has been initiating activities that would help ensure that the school opening would be ready in terms of the resources needed. To be able to project the number of enrollees this school year, DepEd conducted the early registration for Kinder, Grade 7 and 11 students as well as to out-of-school youth and learners with disabilities. DepEd also has existing data on the remaining grade levels in its Learner Information System (LIS).
From May 20 to 25, DepEd led the annual schools maintenance week activity through the “Brigada Eskwela” which gathers stakeholders to do minor clean up and maintenance works in all public schools nationwide. On May 27, DepEd also convened its education partners – mostly government agencies – to help ensure the orderly opening of classes through the Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) and formed an OBE-Interagency Task Force.
To assist the public of any school-related concerns, DepEd set up the Public Assistance Command Center (PACC) in its Central Office. The PACC has been operational since May 27 and will remain available until June 7. To date, DepEd said that over 2,700 reports were gathered by the PACC – mostly concerns on the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS VP).
Asked about the reported shortages in some public schools, Briones noted that these were mainly brought about by the surge of enrollees. These, she said, are not “considered as backlogs” but requirements or “demands” brought in by the increasing number of students in public schools.
As to the reported lack of classrooms, Briones explained that DepEd was not in-charge of school building construction, and said that it was the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) task.
“We only identify which schools that need school buildings and the actual construction is under DPWH using the funds allocated to DepEd,” she explained. In other reported “shortages,” she assured that DepEd is continuously addressing these within its capacity and budget.
DepEd said that it is expecting 27.2 million learners in both public and private schools – across all levels – this SY.
The department, however, noted that this figure might still change once the enrollment in public schools becomes more stable in the coming weeks.
As a matter of policy, public schools are prohibited from turning away learners who wish to enroll. While late enrollees are still being accepted in public schools, DepEd appealed to learners and parents to “enroll” as early possible so the teachers will be able to start conducting classes properly.
Updated data on projected enrollment for SY 2019-2020 from the Office of the Undersecretary for Planning Service and Field Operations Jesus Mateo showed that 27, 216, 398 learners are expected to troop to both private and public and private schools across all basic education levels: 22, 839, 989 in public; 4, 217, 726 in private and 158, 683 in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs).
In public schools alone, there are 22, 839, 989 learners comprised of 2, 098, 627 Kinder; 12, 046, 842 elementary (Grades 1-6); 7,033, 527 Junior High School (JHS or Grades 7-10); and 1, 660, 993 Senior High School (SHS or Grades 11-12). The enrollment in public schools is 83.9 % of the entire projected enrollment for this SY.
In private schools, which will open in the coming weeks, the expected enrollment is 4, 217, 726 with 231, 143 enrollees in Kinder; 1, 213, 776 in Elementary; 1, 431, 117 in JHS and 1, 341, 690 in SHS. In SUCs/LUCs, expected enrollees are: 329 in Kinder; 10, 980 in elementary; 62, 411 in JHS and 84, 963 in SHS.