Despite the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, which seems to be reaching another critical point with the increase of daily cases, the Department of Education (DepEd) has made official its academic calendar for 2022-2023. This includes, as originally planned, five-day in-person classes.
Now under Vice President Sara Duterte, the DepEd seeks to improve the quality of education by pursuing a path that continues the previous efforts of the department under the Duterte administration. This was made evident by VP Sara’s decision to include former DepEd secretary Leonor Briones as one of her consultants.
Continuity, as with any transition from one government to another, is always crucial. Previous administrations have been quite notorious for not continuing their predecessor’s efforts, which is — for all intents and purposes — quite detrimental for development. Why cease a program, when it is effective, simply because it was started by a predecessor? VP Sara seems keen on not doing this and opting to continue the efforts of Briones, as she takes the helm of DepEd.
This is, perhaps, the better decision, as the education situation has not changed much between then and now, with the Covid-19 pandemic still the larger issue learners and educators, as well as parents, have to contend with. Most critical, it would seem, is the implementation of a schedule that allows for the five-day in-person classes. For one, this could turn into a huge logistical mess if not handled properly. From having barely any students in schools to having most of them back at the same time — provided the parents allow for it — would be akin to a large mass gathering: a hotspot for potential Covid cases.
Having proper health and safety measures in place, of course, would minimize this possibility. Still, after two years of not having learners in their classrooms, schools would have to be familiar with how it is once again to truly be a school, with lots of students around. That it’s something that needs familiarization is ironic, but it is what it is, and it is the situation where the pandemic has left schools in.
Apart from contending with a return to in-person classes in a pandemic, VP Sara also promises to “improve basic education in terms of access, equity, quality, resiliency, and governance.” If this was a novel or a series, these five points are the enduring themes. In the current situation, most of these five points are directly related to education in a pandemic, but it is perhaps notable that VP Sara mentions “equity” and not “equality” as basic education is a right applied equally to every Filipino learner. Equity, on the other hand, suggests getting the kind of education that is due to every and any learner, regardless of background — whether it comes from public schools or private ones.
As the DepEd transitions into a new administration, one thing has remained: its mission to promote the education of every Filipino learner, in formal settings or in alternative learning setups. It is easy to ask for a return to in-person classes. But like at the beginning of every school year before the pandemic, the real test comes when the students (and, most often than not, their parents) come knocking at the gates of schools, bags on their backs and, this time, with facemasks covering their noses and mouths.