Education Secretary Leonor Briones says this school year’s opening is “historic and victorious” for the Department of Education and the country.
“This is really unprecedented and we’re as excited as the children who have been wanting to go back to school,” Briones said. “We overhauled the system in less than six months and we were able to surpass our initial target of enrollees. It’s all very encouraging and inspiring,” she said.
When schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Briones knew “that this school year will be full of disruptions.” After wrapping up SY 2019-2020, DepEd started working on its Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) which was released in May.
Briones, who turns 80 this month, admitted that there she made a major adjustment when it comes to meetings needed for policy-making. “I am not familiar with these things (the use of technology), I don’t even know if I can survive it on my own but I am strongly pushing for it,” she said.
To ensure that that education services will not be hampered, DepEd strengthened its communications systems to ensure regular monitoring. “We hold meetings, virtually, almost every day. It takes hours and hours of discussion involving our people from the regions,” she added.
Briones, who was briefly “homeschooled” during the war years, shared that distance or blended learning approaches are not “entirely” new. “We have been using this in the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Perhaps, what is new is the scale of how we are going to use them this school year,” she added.
This school year, Briones said, is a year of many “firsts.” Aside from opening the school year in October, it is also the first time in the country’s history that all 24.72 million students enrolled in both public and private schools will not be learning in the four walls of their classrooms.
Instead, the homes will be their very own learning spaces, where they read printed modules, attend online classes, watch education videos on the television, or listen to lessons converted into radio scripts.
Given these changes in the educational system, Briones noted that the system will not be “perfect.” In terms of preparation, regional offices were allowed to contextualize the BE-LCP to cater to the needs of their students and teachers. All schools division offices, she added, have also conducted dry-runs and simulations on blended learning to find out the areas that need improvement.
Briones said the DepEd is ready for school opening based on the results of the various readiness components updated regularly.
She noted that readiness is always relative. “This school year is a huge challenge, but you know, if you wait and wait until you’re absolutely, absolutely ready – by the time we feel we have certain problems already under control – there will be new challenges,” she added.
Due to the changes in the education landscape, DepEd is anticipating issues and problems in the implementation of blended and distance learning. “But just like when moving to a new house, we don’t know what needs to be fixed unless we move in,” Briones said.
Despite the challenges ahead, Briones believes that being able to resume classes amid a pandemic is already a big feat. “Oct. 5 is a celebration, a declaration of victory for the Filipino child because whatever challenges we are facing, education will continue, the learning of children will continue.”