Group says DepEd’s ‘no physical reporting’ option for teachers is ‘untrue, unrealistic’

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

A federation of teachers on Saturday slammed the Department of Education (DepEd) for claiming that there will be “no physical reporting” required for teachers as they start rendering service next month.

For the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines, DepEd’s claim that not all teachers will be required to physically report to work starting June 1 is far from being true and realistic.

Citing a report from Isabela teachers, ACT claimed that “they are being tasked to physically take DepEd’s online survey on distance learning readiness from one student’s house to another, as these households reportedly do not have access to computers and/or stable internet, if any.”

Earlier, DepEd announced that teachers shall start rendering service on June 1 upon completion of summer vacation on May 31. Before the formal school opening on August 24, DepEd said that teachers will attend orientation and undergo training activities on the utilization of the distance learning delivery modalities, prepare instructional materials, and plan the organization of classes in consideration of the learning delivery modalities to be employed.

DepEd said that if skeleton workforce will still be the operative government guidelines by June, it will “issue the appropriate alternative work arrangements guidelines to the field to comply with prevailing policy, and to ensure safe work environment.”

A preview of what’s to come

ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio lamented the report coming from the Isabela teachers. “The irony seems to be lost on DepEd—their main means of assessing learners’ and teachers’ readiness for distance learning is an online survey only accessible to those with computers and internet connection or have access to such,” he said.

Basilio noted that if teachers - who themselves struggle with online work - are obliged to ensure that DepEd’s survey reaches those in rural and far-flung areas by going house-to-house, “this may be a preview of what’s to come when school opens, another year of the government passing onto teachers its huge responsibilities to millions of Filipinos.”

ACT also refuted DepEd’s claims on the “virtual reporting option” for teachers by citing the enrollment schemes available to learners, which include in-person and online modes. “The significant number of families who are unable to go online will naturally resort to old ways of enrolling their children, and thus will require scores of teachers to physically report to schools,” Basilio added.

Basilio claimed that the same can be expected come August - when the country is supposed to be largely under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) - and when DepEd rolls out its Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) which offers a blended learning option of face-to-face and modular. “However, we reiterate that without systematic mass testing, these modes will be recipes for disaster,” he stressed.

‘ICT backwardness’

For ACT, unless the government invests serious efforts and resources on retooling and reskilling its frontliners in education using the online mode of education would be “nothing but a far-fetched dream” at this point.

To highlight the the “backwardness” of the country’s ICT, ACT noted that even mobile signal in highly urbanized areas like Quezon City and in many areas is “scant” while in rural communities, radio and TV signals are also limited - thereby making even non-online forms of distance learning challenging.

“If DepEd’s ‘no physical reporting’ option on June 1 is sincere and isn't mere lip service, they must provide teachers with laptops/computers, ensure access to internet, and establish an online platform that can accommodate millions of employees and enrollees at once,” Basilio said. “Likewise, the government should ensure the same for over 27 million learners nationwide, in keeping with its constitutional duty to ensure Filipinos’ right to accessible quality education,” he added.

If these concerns are not addressed, ACT urged the Duterte administration to defer school year 2020–2021 and utilize this time to address the many problem areas in the Philippine education system as it enters into the “new normal” - without risking the lives of education workers and learners.