By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
In light of the extended Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Tuesday said that various plans are being discussed by its key officials that would address the challenges brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the country.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin, said that key officials as well as concerned regional officials of DepEd are discussing its plans after the announcement of the extended ECQ.
“We’re meeting, via video conference, to discuss the implication of the extended quarantine,” Briones said. She noted that the DepEd will have to come up with various scenarios since the current situation is still “fluid and uncertain.”
While the ECQ is extended only in Luzon, Briones noted that community quarantines are also implemented in various parts of the country. Given this, she noted the need for DepEd to come up with a harmonized action plan or contingency measures.
Briones said that due to the COVID-19 developments in the country, there are a lot of “uncertainties when it comes to school opening.” Among those that will be discussed related to COVID-19 situation are possible methods of teaching.
Should the schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 situation, among the alternatives being considered is distance learning via online. However, Briones admitted that this might be challenging especially for the public school system given the number of schools and enrollment it will have.
This school year, DepEd noted that there are over 27 million learners in both public and private schools. If online learning will implemented, she noted of possible equipment issues will arise—among others.
“Those who will do online learning at home – with gadgets and equipment – might have an advantage over those who do not,” she explained.
When it comes to recommendation to move the school opening from June to between August to September, Briones said that DepEd has yet to decided on this. “Given the uncertainty of the situation, there will be several assumptions based on possible scenarios,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Briones stressed that the action plans of DepEd will have to be aligned with that of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). “This is why the implications [of the COVID-19] need to be harmonized since it affect not just the Luzon but also other parts of the country,” she said. DepEd’s measures, she added, will also be based on the assessment and post-planning of the technical working group of the IATF.
Graduation, end-of-school year rites
DepEd has earlier allowed schools to push through with end-of-school-year (EOSY) rites once the ECQ in Luzon and in other areas have been lifted.
Schools were allowed to hold their moving up, graduation, or recognition rites from April 15 to 17. However, due to the extension of ECQ, Briones noted that schools will have to make the necessary adjustments.
“We’re still not sure if the school are still able to do these because mass gatherings are prohibited during the quarantine,” Briones said. “There’s a great deal of vigorous debates on this because the graduation rites are very important to some parents and even grandparents,” she added.
Briones noted that schools are still allowed to conduct EOSY rites but they might have to consider various options. For instance, a “virtual” graduation or moving up rites might be considered or “they can also do this by batches.”
Earlier, DepEd has also came up with the Certificate Generator which will facilitate the preparation and printing of certificates of completion and diplomas in the public elementary and secondary schools nationwide.
Should schools decide to hold their moving up, graduation, or recognition rites, DepEd reminded the activities should be “pursuant to applicable social distancing measures in the locality as directed by relevant national and local authorities.”
Meanwhile, DepEd reminded that schools may “choose to reschedule or forego the holding of the rites” within the said period after consulting with the leadership of Parents-Teachers Associations (PTAs).
Based on DepEd Order no. 002 s. of 2020 or the Multi-Year Implementing Guidelines on the Conduct of the K to 12 Basic Education Program End-of-School-Year, Kindergarten, Grade 6, Grade 10 and Grade 12 learners who “meet the curriculum requirements at the end of each school year” are covered by this year’s EOSY rites.
Moving up ceremonies will be conducted for Kindergarten and Grade 10 completers while graduation rites will be held for Grade 6 and Grade 12 learners. The said guidelines for EOSY apply to both public and private schools nationwide.