Gatchalian seeks Senate inquiry into preparedness of schools to resume face-to-face classes

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has urged the Senate to look into the preparedness of the basic education sector for School Year (SY) 2021-2022 .

Gatchalian, in filing Senate Resolution No. 739, said it is imperative to assess if basic education institutions can delivery quality education for the next school year, whether through face-to-face classes, distance learning, or other alternative delivery modes.

Gatchalian underscored the importance of determining whether schools are prepared to resume face-to-face classes or if it would be better to prolong the current setup of a distance learning education

In the said resolution, the senator said lawmakers also need to assess the challenges that continue to hound the education sector, including the lack of gadgets, electricity, intermittent Wi-Fi connection, appropriate learning space and issues on the quality of modules.

“After a year of conducting distance learning where we faced serious challenges, it’s important to know if we can use what we learned to ensure the most effective way we can continue giving education to our youth,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

President Duterte has repeatedly thumbed down proposals to resume face-to-face classes in light of the resurgence of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines.

But the Senate, in March 2021, adopted Senate Resolution No. 663, recommending the resumption of physical classes “through the immediate launch of the pilot-testing of localized, limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas” that are identified by the Department of Education (DepEd).

Based on a Pulse Asia survey that the senator commissioned, only 46 percent of Filipinos with a child in basic education say that their child is learning; 30 percent are uncertain whether their child is learning, and 25 percent say that their child is not learning.

The same poll revealed that the top concerns raised by parents and learners nationwide are the difficulty in answering modules, intermittent Internet connection, difficulty in focusing or laziness to listen and lack of gadgets for online learning.

Gatchalian further noted that the year-long school closure has a devastating effect on children. During a Senate committee hearing held earlier this year, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) flagged school closures saying this expose learners to increased risk of violence, abuse and early pregnancies.

“With the roll-out of vaccination in the country and teachers being on the priority list, the conduct of pilot face-to-face classes in low-risk or zero-COVID areas may be authorized by the President under the most stringent public health protocols,” Gatchalian said in the explanatory note of his measure.

“Therefore, there is a need to assess the readiness of both public and private basic education institutions to safely open for the coming school year, regardless of the mode of teaching and learning that will be adopted,” he said.