As the country prepares for the full resumption of face-to-face classes this incoming school year, a group of education workers on Saturday, Aug. 13, urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to find a long-term solution to the shortage in basic education resources —particularly in classrooms.
In a press conference early this week, DepEd recognized that there is still a classroom shortage in highly-populated areas such as Metro Manila and Calabarzon.
As an intervention, DepEd Spokesman Michael Poa said the agency is looking into shifting classes to address the congestion in classrooms.
However, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines called out DepEd for this “band-aid solution.”
The group said that DepEd’s directive to divide classes in shifts to resolve the issue of classroom shortage for the coming school year has already been the “norm in many schools” nationwide even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
ACT Chairperson Vladimer Quetua explained that in the National Capital Region (NCR), the majority of schools have been implementing double shifting even before the pandemic.
Quetua noted that there were also instances wherein schools were forced to implement triple shifting due to the high number of enrollees in a specific school or area.
Class shifting, he added, has also been implemented in other regions such as Region IV-A and even in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“Patunay ito na matagal nang ginagamit bilang band-aid solution ang class shifting sa problema ng kakulangan sa classroom (This proves that class shifting has long been used as a band-aid solution to the problem of classroom shortages),” Quetua said.
Given this, ACT urged DepEd to come up with a long-term solution to address the classroom shortage which has been a perennial problem, especially in public schools located in highly-urbanized areas.
Quetua also noted that class shifting should not be the norm in the long term as it has “negative implications” for the health and safety of teachers and learners and the quality of education.
In this setup, the students are divided into batches and they will attend classes in their designated “shift” — morning or afternoon. Quetua explained that some students attending the morning shift start their classes as early as 6 a.m. and those who need to travel to school need to leave their houses earlier. Students in the afternoon shift need to stay in school until around 7:00 p.m.
Aside from their safety, Quetua also noted that the learning of students is also affected since there is less time to spend in school.
Quetua pointed out that over the years, there have been many recommendations to address classroom shortages, especially in highly urbanized areas without buildable space such as the construction of medium-rise or high-rise school buildings — among others.
With students at home for two years under distance learning, Quetua said that the government should have taken this opportunity to prepare the schools for the resumption of face-to-face classes.