Caught by surprise by school opening postponement, private schools urged gov’t to allow them to proceed

Following the postponement of school opening from August 24 to October 5, private schools on Friday appealed to President Duterte to allow them to proceed with their school opening schedule.

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), which serves as the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines, was “caught by surprise” with the recent announcement of the Department of Education (DepEd) deferring the scheduled school opening less than two weeks from now.

In a virtual press briefing, Education Secretary Leonor Briones announced the deferment of the school opening as directed by President Duterte. She explained that DepEd submitted a recommendation to the President in response to the implications of imposition of Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and in the provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal.

“This morning, we received a memorandum from the Office of the President that the President has already made the decision,” Briones said. “The President has given approval to the recommendation of DepEd, thus, we will implement such a decision to defer school opening to October 5,” she added.

Briones said that the President himself has chosen Oct. 5 as the date for school opening. “We shall use the deferment to provide relief to the logistical limitations faced by the areas placed under MECQ and to fill in the remaining gaps of the school opening that we are currently addressing,” he added.

In a statement, COCOPEA said that it remains unclear to private schools if they are included in the  deferment of school opening. COCOPEA is composed of more than 2,500 educational institutions in the country represented by its five member-associations that include Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAPSCU); Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP); Association of Christian Schools Colleges and Universities (ACSCU); and Technical Vocational Schools Association of the Philippines (TVSA).

“We appeal to the President, to allow private schools to continue with school opening as scheduled, as we have been tirelessly preparing at the onset of this pandemic and massive efforts and solutions were made to address the learning crisis,” COCOPEA said -- noting that the private education sector is “ready for school opening” without in-person classes through the use various teaching and learning delivery modalities.

COCOPEA explained that many private schools have already opened their school year as early as July.

The organization added that the private education’s preparations for distance learning “have been motivated by our desire to resume school operations for the benefit of our learners and also the welfare of around 300,000 teachers and other personnel who are at risk of being laid off from work or work without pay.”

The COCOPEA also reached out to DepEd as well as to policymakers and offered the online and distance education resources of private schools -- including its well-trained teachers -- to help public schools in the delivery of education to the youth through the use of subsidies or vouchers.

“We have available student slots of up to 60% our capacity or up to 3 million students,” COCOPEA said. “This will help hasten the readiness of the public school system, and at the same time, the government could help in sustaining the operations of the private education institutions adversely affected by the very low turnout of enrollment because of the students' financial difficulties,” it added.