As it starts the countdown for the formal opening of classes on Oct. 5, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday dismissed outright calls for an “academic freeze” and would focus on school preparations instead.
DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesperson Nepomuceno Malaluan, during the virtual “Handang Isip, Handa Bukas” press briefing, said that the DepEd does not support calls for an “academic freeze” noting its implications on the educational system as a whole.
The hashtag #AcademicFreezeNOW has been trending on social media sites – particularly on Twitter – as netizens voice their challenges and frustrations on distance learning especially on over online learning.
“We believe this is a populist position that is not popular because we have the support of 24 million students and their parents,” Malaluan said. He noted that due to the COVID-19 situation in the country has already “interrupted the learning process” for this school year for months now.
As mentioned by Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Malaluan noted that “in the past that there is respect for those that – all things considered – for various circumstances would opt out of this school year including the academic freezers who might not want to participate in the learning continuity.”
An online petition via Change.org posted by a user with the handle name “The Ruins” has triggered the calls for an academic freeze this school year. In the petition addressed to DepEd, the user is calling for suspending the School Year (SY) 2020-2021 due to challenges in learning delivery especially through online. The petitioner claimed that “academic freeze is vital in this time wherein there is a pandemic.”
As of Sept. 9, there are a total of 233,378 signatories. The petitioner is targeting 300,000 signatures. An “academic freeze” refers to the suspension or cancellation of the academic calendar and non-admission of students across all levels.
However, Malaluan noted that this call or position is also “ill-informed because it takes the readiness issue – with respect to the online learning – when in fact, as will be shown today – the DepEd has been preparing as early as April and working with partners to ensure that they will be able to deliver instruction through various modalities.”
In the absence of face-to-face learning this school year, DepEd will implement a blended learning approach using modules (both printed and digital format) supplemented by online learning and educational television and radio broadcast.
“We hope that this matter would be laid to rest as a backward position and let this matter be already responded to finally by the department,” Malaluan said. “In the future, we will no longer respond to questions on this,” he added.
Instead of addressing calls on academic freeze, Malaluan said that DepEd will focus on preparations for the upcoming school year. “Our singular focus is to ensure safe learning resumption by October 5 through distance and blended learning,” he said.