The Department of Education (DepEd) clarified Thursday before the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture that there won't be any automatic passage of enrolled students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, DepEd also admitted to the panel that guidelines for the grading of pupils were still being formulated less than two weeks to go before the start of the academic year.
During the committee's virtual hearing, Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo asked resource person, DepEc Undersecretary Tonisito Umali whether or not her impression that learners--particularly those who can only avail themselves of television and radio-based instruction--would be automatically promoted to the next higher grade the following year.
"Kung hindi po makaabot or walang tablet yung bata or estudyante, puwede pong mag-rely sa television or radio learning. Now, hindi po ito graded pero considered as--if that child was already enrolled for that school year--papasa po siya. (If the child or student won't be given a tablet, then television or radio learning could be relied upon. While this isn't graded, if that child was already enrolled for that school year--the child will pass)," she said.
"I am under the impression Mr. Chairman na wala pong babagsak (nobody will get failed), and everybody will pass during this COVID-19 pandemic," noted Castelo.
As opposed to online-based learning, TV and radio-based instruction won't have the benefit of two-way interaction between learner and teacher. Along with self-learning modules (SLMs), these three comprise the three main learning modalities espoused by DepEd during the pandemic.
"Ang konsepto po ng pagpasa na pinag-uusapan natin is (If our concept of passage is) automatically being promoted from one grade level to a high grade level...wala pong ganoon na mangyayari (that won't be happening)," Umali said in response to Castelo.
"Kung ang tinatanong po natin ay yung dati nating ginagawa na ina-assess po natin, may grado po ang bawat bata, bawat markahan, bawat grading period ay mangyayari pa rin po iyon. So wala pong awtomatikong papasa (If what you're asking is about the assessment done to each child during each grading period, we would still do that. So there's no such thing as automatic passage)," he added.
Umali said the activity sheets that would come bundled with the printed learning modules will be used by teachers to assess the pupils' progress. He said these modules have to be picked up or delivered to the learners' homes either weekly or once every two weeks.
But before his reply to Castelo, DepEd Assistant Secretary Alma Ruby Torio bared that there is yet no finalized guidelines for grading students under the new normal.
"Doon po sa usapin sa assessment po, gusto po naming ipaalam po sa inyo na...mayroon pong binubuong interim guidelines on assessment pero kasalukuyan po ay we are consulting our field officials like our RDs (regional directors) bago po namin i-submit sa execom for approval (On the topic of assessment, we want you to know that we are currently forming interim guidelines on assessment but we need to first consult our field officials like our RDs before we submit it to the execom for approval)," Torio said.
"Hopefully po 'pag na-approve po ito ay mabibigyan din po namin kayo ng kopya (Hopefully we would be able to give you a copy once this is approved)," she added.
Meanwhile, panel chairman, Pasig City lone district Rep. Roman Romulo advised Umali and the rest of DepEd to do some "soul-searching" on whether or not the agency is truly ready to push through with opening of classes on August 24.
Like last week's hearing, he warned that all of DepEd's efforts would go down the drain--and the quality of education would follow suit--if it turns out that the department was ill-prepared to start the school year.
Ealier, panel member and Quezon City 5th district Rep. Alfred Vargas prodded DepEd to conduct pilot tests first on the different modes of blended learning instead of going ahead with the scheduled school reopening.
“DepEd should consider pilot testing various forms of blended learning in select schools nationwide starting August 24 while sourcing additional funds for its implementation. This way, the agency will know the technical challenges that could affect teachers and students,” he said.
“Using the experiences and feedback of stakeholders in the pilot tests, DepEd can implement blended learning more effectively later this year or even in January 2021,” Vargas added.