Private schools laud DepEd’s efforts on school opening; call for more ‘relaxed rules’ amid COVID-19 crisis

Published May 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While it lauds the announcement of the Department of Education (DepEd) to open the upcoming school year in August, a group of private schools on Thursday urged the agency to issue new guidelines when it comes to the use of Flexible Learning Options (FLOs).

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), which serves as the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines, welcomed the announcement of DepEd on August school opening.

COCOPEA managing director Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada (Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
COCOPEA managing director Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada
(Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We laud the DepEd in addressing the challenge of COVID-19 in the continuity of learning in announcing the school opening for the public school system on August 24 using flexible learning modes while we all await the go signal from health experts to allow residential learning in campus,” said COCOPEA managing director Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada in a statement.

COCOPEA is composed of more than 2,500 educational institutions in the country, represented by its five member-associations: Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAPSCU); Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP); Association of Christian Schools Colleges and Universities (ACSCU); and Technical Vocational Schools Association of the Philippines (TVSA).

Private schools are getting ready

Estrada noted that so far 60 percent of their private schools under COCOPEA “have already manifested their readiness to open the school year using FLOs between June to August” as allowed by the Republic Act No. 7797 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) days to not more that Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days.”

In the coming weeks, Estrada said that “this number will go up as private schools continue to prepare” for the start of classes for SY 2020-2021. As stated in RA 7797, “the school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”

For private schools, Estrada noted that the “flexibility in determining their own school calendar has long been recognized” by the DepEd. “We expect it to be unchanged,” he added.

New guidelines needed

Aside from the announcement of the date of school opening, Estrada noted that private schools are “more interested in the details of the school calendar as may be allowed by DepEd in terms of events and school activities and minimum class days and how these equate to flexible learning delivery.”

In the absence of face-to-face conduct of classes, many private schools are planning to used various FLOs to ensure the delivery of education to their students. Estrada pointed out a new set of guidelines should be issued by DepEd prior to the opening of classes.

“More importantly, a new guideline ought to be issued amending DepEd Order 21 series of 2019, which requires private schools to secure a prior permit from the DepEd regional offices before they can use flexible learning options,” Estrada explained.

Estrada stressed that this “administrative regulatory barrier may no longer be attuned to the present situation our country is in and should therefore be removed or relaxed as the national health emergency necessitates schools to move to FLOs, otherwise learning would stop.”

Moreover, Estrada said that “relaxing of these rules” is also consistent with the mandate of K to 12 Act of inclusive and responsive delivery of basic education. He noted that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has “already relaxed the rules for online and FLOs in higher education” in an advisory issued earlier.

Estrada added that CHED also created a Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of experts in setting parameters for inclusivity, best practices, and assistance to higher education institutions (HEIs) moving into FLOs as a response to the disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 situation in the country.