Group raises alarm on learning continuity for marginalized students in the ‘new normal’

With all eyes focused on the opening of classes in formal education, a group expressed alarm that the needs of learners who belong to disadvantaged sectors and informal systems will once again be put aside.


E-Net, a network of 130 organizations and partners, raised concerns on the education and learning continuity of students who belong to marginalized sectors—those with disabilities, out-of-school youth, and indigenous peoples (IPs), among others. 

In a multi-stakeholder virtual presscon on Sept. 30, E-Net President Flora Arellano said that while the Department of Education (DepEd) has reported an enrollment of over 24 million students, “there are still 3.3 million students who have yet to enroll for this school year” if the data was compared to last year’s, when enrollment was at 27.7 million.

“The figures on the ground are alarming,” Arellano said, noting that only 63,549 students with disabilities were able to enroll this year, leaving behind an estimated 3.23 million children.

Arellano noted that more than 3.5 million out-of-school-youth “may not be able to avail” of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) this year. Likewise, she said that only 515,748 students have enrolled in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as of June 2020, only 42 percent of last school year’s enrollees, according to DepEd data.

“Last mile” learners—or those who live in remote areas—are also disadvantaged, Arellano said, “with 8,013 barangays still without elementary schools, mostly located in geographically-isolated areas with peace and order problems.”

Given this, E-Net is calling on the government to address the needs of the poor and disadvantaged sectors for inclusive and quality education in the “new normal.” 

“We believe that the government must exert all efforts into accommodating these unenrolled students into the system to ensure that no one is left behind,” Arellano said.

This, she added, can be achieved if the government makes learning programs “accessible to all,” including students living in remote areas, those with disabilities, and out-of-school youths and adults who can benefit from the alternative learning system.