DepEd should consider select face-to-face classes-Alvarez

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DAVAO CITY — Representative Pantaleon D. Alvarez, 1st District Davao del Norte, suggests that the Department of Education (DepEd) should consider face-to-face classes for areas with low-risk of COVID-19 infections and/or limited digital capacity. 

In a statement, Alvarez has shared the following insights regarding the DepEd issue on the mode of learning amid continuing public health protocols.

“Earlier this month, DepEd confirmed that no face-to-face classes will be held for the coming school year, with the standard curriculum converted to a distance learning program. This was in compliance with the directive of President Duterte to postpone the conduct of conventional classes until the public health crisis is decisively under control.  

While we should support these steps taken by DepEd to minimize the spread of COVID-19, we should also remember that there is an imminent danger to the Filipino students’ education and future. The online and broadcast materials proposed by DepEd may be helpful, but these are not easily available for many teachers, students, and families”.

After all, not everyone has the means to purchase a laptop, a tablet, and other digital devices. Not everyone has access to – or can afford – internet connection. As a matter of fact, there are Filipino families who do not even have radios or televisions at home. This is the reality we cannot ignore. 

Moreover, given the sudden shift to the digital age, our government’s capacity (as well as those of our teachers and students in far-flung areas) requires sufficient time and experience to catch up for familiarization with new technological tools. Sadly, many of our schools, our teachers, and our students in the peripheries have not even seen, or held, digital gadgets nor do they have much experience with the internet. 

Unfortunately, along with many parts of the world, our country was caught off guard and was not prepared for this challenge. And the policies we adopt now will be the decisive factor as to whether or not we can cushion the negative impact of the crisis and, later on, bounce back better and stronger. A one-size-fits-all prescription, indifferent to the unique context and situation in various areas of our archipelago, will be a hindrance to this objective.  

And this is why a multi-pronged approach is necessary for a more responsive and effective government action. 

Yes, some areas must adopt a distance learning program given the risk of face-to-face classes. Yes, we have to continue shifting to the digital age as a necessity. However, we have to balance these aspirations with on the ground realities. Some areas are not considered high risk when it comes to the spread of COVID-19. Also, some areas lack digital gadgets and/or have limited capacity, on the part of end users, to utilize modern learning tools. 

A nuanced, and area-specific approach, is the best and realistic way forward. 

Areas with no cases of COVID-19 should consider regular classes. Areas with little to no background when it comes to the digital era should learn about these modern tools, build capacities with the help and support from the government (and the private sector) and gradually – but steadily – shift to the digital age. In the meantime, however, necessity requires us to consider context and be open to the fact that traditional classes may be the more effective and practical option for certain areas of our country. 

A one-size-fits-all strategy will not work. 

Some prescriptions for action, indeed, may be effective in Metro-Manila and, probably, highly urbanized cities. But the same prescription will, in all likelihood, fail when applied to neglected peripheries of our country. We have to be mindful of this objective reality. 

Make no mistake about it, the threat of COVID-19 is real, but so is the threat to the education and development of our students, most especially the poor and marginalized. Their education, which is essential for holistic personal development and expanded opportunities later on in life, must also be protected. If we do not adopt an area-specific solution to the problems that we presently face, a more promising future for our students will tragically be part of COVID-19’s collateral damage. 

We cannot, and must not, allow this to happen. 

Therefore, let us convince our government that conventional classes be considered for COVID-19 low-risk areas should the local DepEd and Department of Health offices, along with the Local Government Unit concerned, deem it feasible and practical. 

Further, areas with little to no background when it comes to laptops, tablets, and the internet should be introduced to these tools now and develop their skills for using these devices. However, in the meantime, a traditional classroom setup may be the better option considering the capacity of the end-users involved.

A nuanced approach, instead of a one size fits all policy, will help us better realize our collective objective: no student should be left behind.” Newsline

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