Manila Teachers Party-List Rep. Virgilio Lacson believes that school year 2020-2021 must push through for the sake of Filipino students, despite huge challenges in implementing alternatives to in-person classes in view of continuing quarantine restrictions.
Lacson noted concerns as to whether or not the Department of Education (DepEd) could carry out distance learning effectively in basic education involving millions of grade school and high school students throughout the country.
"I'm still worried with the way preparations are going (on). There's a chance the quality of education might deteriorate. Education is very important to us because it is our way out of poverty; it helps us succeed. So sana maayos natin baka ma-left behind tayo (So I hope we can fix everything, or else we'll be left behind)," he said in an interview.
Reacting to suggestions from some quarters to defer the reopening of schools until such time that the threat of COVID-19 has ceased, Lacson said, "Paano kung next year may COVID pa rin? Sayang ang panahon (What if there's still COVID next year? It'll be a waste of time)."
"We have to make good with what we have. But lets do it properly, the roll out of distance learning."
There is still no proven vaccine for COVID-19 in the market, which has infected over 38,000 and killed almost 1,300 people in the Philippines. The contagion has made face-to-face instruction in schools impossible, thus DepEd's initiative on distance learning that will be enforced on opening day, August 24.
Lacson has noted in past House panel hearings particularly by the Committee on Information and Communications Technology that DepEd has placed much trust and confidence on the Department of Information of Communications Technology (DICT) to ensure connectivity among the country's 43,000 basic education schools by this date.
"Dapat sila mag-communicate at mag-coordinate to see if the bandwith is (strong) enough (They should communicate and coordinate to see if the bandwith is enough)," he said, referring to the two agencies.
Lacson expressed concern that the online surge of students on opening day would break the Internet, so to speak.
"Everybody is thinking online pero pag--aralan natin kung kaya nung bandwith natin. Wala pang mga estudyante, intermittent na yung signal (Everybody is thinking online learning but let's study if our bandwith can take it. We don't have students yet but the signal is already intermittent)," he said.
While he maintained that the August 24 target reopening for schools "can be done," Lacson said online learning should not be pursued for everyone given the limitations. "Let's not use the holistic approach, instead let's do it by area," he said.
Lacson authored House Bill (HB) No.6708, which seeks to establish the Television (TV ) Broadcasting Education Program as an alternative learning system for basic education. The measure was filed last May, or at the height of the government's quarantine in connection with the new coronavirus.
Lacson said the use of TV-based learning can help alleviate DepEd's burden on delivering online-based learning to all pupils, especially in areas there is weak connection This will also save precious resources including bandwith, he noted.
"Ang kailangan lang nila is instructional learning: dapat may nakikita sila. Hindi pwede ang radyo dyan (What they need is instructional learning: it should be visual. You can't do that with radio)."