For Education Secretary Leonor Briones, “telling the truth” or filling in the gaps in communication is the “biggest” of all the challenges that the Department of Education (DepEd) is facing this year.
“From my perspective, there are various challenges,” Briones said in a recent online press conference. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last school year ended abruptly. Since the “new normal” would require many adjustments especially in the delivery of education, DepEd was forced to move the opening of the new school year from June to August.
The three-month delay, DepEd said, will enable the schools to prepare for the school opening using the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) as a guide. Since face-to-face learning is not yet allowed, DepEd will implement Blended/Distance Learning this School Year (SY) 2020-2021 using various alternative learning deliveries that would suit the needs and capacities of the learners and teachers.
At the regional level, Secretary Briones noted that the challenge comes in the form of contextualizing the LCP, scheduling and “knowing what is happening” on the ground. At the policy level at the Central Office, “it’s really keeping an eye on the curriculum and keeping an eye on this schedule so we meet often and we’re always tracking each other.”
However, from her perspective as the DepEd chief, the biggest challenge is communication. “There is so much false information circulating, there’s so much false news, there’s so much alarmist views being circulated, and it confuses the parents, it confuses the schools, it confuses the learners,” Briones said.
At 79, Briones frequently browses social media sites where she gets some updates on what is happening in the field. From the comments, she notes that there are some misconceptions on school opening which continue to confuse parents and learners. “There are misconceptions and some of them very angry – even cursing the Secretary,” she lamented.
Some of the misconceptions on school opening, Briones said, is the date of the new school year, the conduct of classes and the alternative learning modalities available.
“We want to correct these misconceptions so the parents and learners will not be confused,” Briones said. “To be clear, school opening is still on August 24 and we will be using a blended approach which means learning will not be exclusively online and that there will be no face-to-face classes until we’re told that it is safe for us to do so,” she added.
Briones noted that while it is understandable for emotions to run high on the issue of school opening because it is related to health and safety, she urged the public not to let “anger control” over their decisions and that of the DepEd.
“So the biggest challenge for me is telling the truth,” Briones said. “We’ve always given you the truth, we’ve given you the numbers when you asked. You asked for our analysis, we give them but still, because of the noise, everyone is concerned about education [and] everyone becomes an expert in education,” she ended.