By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
While the conduct of graduation and other end-of-school year rites in the previous school year have been indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis in the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) continued to find ways to make it a reality.
As a response to the government’s community quarantine restriction across the country and the indefinite suspension of schools across all levels, DepEd has partnered with Microsoft to enact the #Hello2020Graduates program which is a virtual “graduation-in-a-box” solution powered by Microsoft 365.
Through Microsoft Teams, schools nationwide are able to host the graduation ceremonies through the Teams’ Live Event feature that allows a maximum of 10,000 users to watch the ceremony anywhere in the world amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Throughout the last three months, DepEd and Microsoft have been working closely in a joint effort to enable collaboration and remote learning for schools nationwide. Currently, Microsoft Teams has been connecting the 17 regional offices nationwide to proactively identify and address issues and opportunities concerning teachers and learners.
“The future of the Philippines lies in the hands of the brilliant young minds sitting in its classrooms today and we are privileged to empower not just their learning experience, but also their future,” said Microsoft Philippines Country General Manager Andres Ortola.
“We’re so humbled to be part of this great initiative.”
Under the leadership of Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Ortola said that DepEd has worked throughout this challenging time to ensure students all over the country retain access to learning and enrichment.
“Now, they get a chance to celebrate this great and important occasion not just in their academic pursuits but in their lives as whole,” Ortola explained.
“We’re excited to see more schools activated with this initiative in the coming months.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown, DepEd has worked to ensure students retain access to learning and education as well as keep the academic experience as much as possible—including its milestones.
As a result, #Hello2020Graduates was launched last May 13.
“Graduation from any educational level is more than just another step in the journey, it’s a recognition of achievements, hard work and more importantly, it is a symbol of hope,” said Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua. “In this challenging time, the importance of celebrations like this are greater than ever [and] through this, we want to not only show that these milestones can be celebrated safely, but that they should.”
Powered by Microsoft’s unified communication and collaboration platform, Microsoft 365, #Hello2020Graduates gives schools access to innovative Office webapps, intelligent cloud services and world-class security.
Through Microsoft Teams, schools are able to host the graduation ceremonies through the Teams’ Live Event feature allowing thousands of users to watch the ceremony anywhere in the world — allowing the students’ family members who are abroad, or in other parts of the Philippines, to participate.
#Hello2020Graduates is easily deployable, requiring minimum internet connectivity and comes with a DepEd-approved technical guide and manual, which follows the standard graduation flow including the marching of students, the delivery of honor students’ speeches, and even special DepEd representatives and school administrators’ farewell addresses.
The #Hello2020Graduates, which is now available to all public and private schools from the 17 regions of the Philippines, was first adopted by Region 11.
On May 13, three schools were involved in the pilot run including the Ruparan National High School in Digos City, Cornelio Reta Sr. Elementary School in Davao City, and Panabo City Senior High School in Panabo City.
A total of 631 students participated in the pilot ceremonies.
Since then, five more schools held their virtual graduations in Region 11, giving another 831 students the opportunity to celebrate their commencements. All in all, 1,462 students from eight (8) schools in Region 11.
“Students, parents, and their teachers deserve this celebration, not only to culminate their efforts from the past school year, but to prepare them for what comes next,” said DepEd Regional Director Evelyn Fetalvero.
“This is a first in the Philippines and Region 11 is proud to have provided precedence for other schools and regions in the country to follow.”
In her graduation/moving-up ceremonies for School Year (SY) 2019-2020, Briones congratulated the graduates and their parents.
“Graduation and moving up ceremonies are significant occasions for the graduates and completing learners as these mark the milestones of your educational achievement,” Briones said.
“May these occasions inspire you to study harder for the fulfillment of your dreams and aspirations. Life may constantly offer you challenges, but you have to forge on.”
Briones also lauded teachers for molding the minds of our Filipino youth and producing among these learners the much-needed knowledge and competencies under the K to 12 Basic Education Program.
“Hours may be long and the prescribed duties may be exhausting, but shaping the future of these youth will definitely improve their lives.”
As they move to another phase of their lives, Briones also thanked the parents to for their sacrifices in attending to the needs of their children.
“Your guidance and support have helped build their confidence in themselves,” she said. “You have exerted a powerful influence on their overall development,” she added.
The theme of this year’s end-of-school rites (EOSR), “Sulong EduKalidad: Championing the Nation’s Future” is consistent with DepEd’s call for national effort towards quality basic education.
Briones said that amid the challenges, DepEd remains committed to provide learners with 21st century skills through the delivery of quality, accessible, relevant, and liberating basic education.
“We continuously strive to institute reforms in our educational system to ensure that you become globally competitive and able to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” she ended.