At a Senate hearing on Thursday, June 25, Sen. Nancy Binay asked Department of Education (DepEd) officials whether the agency had conducted school mapping to help identify which areas had the proper infrastructure to adopt new learning modalities such as online learning.
With the country’s resources stretched thin due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Binay reiterated the need for the DepEd to take a more targeted approach in identifying which mode of learning would be implemented in areas across the country.
“Hindi ba ho dapat, kumbaga, limited resources na nga, very targeted ang way of training our teachers, our way of preparing our materials?” Binay said during a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture.
Binay said school mapping is needed to identify where the gaps and information needs of students are, especially those in remote barangays and islands. It likewise helps the government in assessing actionable conditions in order to optimize delivery of learning content to students, she added.
The DepEd replied that their data mapping is still in progress but promised to come up with its own census before the school year opens on August 24. The education department had earlier decided to postpone the face-to-face classroom learning until a vaccine for the coronavirus has been developed.
Binay expressed bemusement that DepEd still had not conducted its school mapping. “Kung ngayon pa lang tayo nagma-mapping, parang hindi nagiging targeted ‘yong resources na meron tayo. Hindi po ba?” she said.
“Hindi ba dapat ngayon pa lang mayroon nang ganitong mapping? Kasi iyong training na ginagawa ninyo sa mga teachers dapat angkop doon sa kakayahan ng lugar, eh. For example, let’s say Bukidnon or Cordillera na alam naman natin mahirap ang signal. So why would we train our teachers for an online way of teaching our kids when alam naman natin na mukhang mahirap ang ganoong klase ng pagtuturo?” Binay asked.
The senator also moved for the DepEd and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to submit whatever data they have mapped so far, especially on connectivity, so the Senate could have an idea about the country’s situation.
“Kung alam naman natin na walang signal, why waste time and effort for an online modality?” she queried.
At the same hearing, Sen. Francis Tolentino also questioned the DepEd’s ability to train all of its teachers on distance learning on time before the start of the school year.
Tolentino revealed that only 337,486 public school teachers have been trained by DepEd’s Information, Communications Technology Service (ICTS) on ICT-based instruction.
“The figure is just about 40 percent of the total public school teaching population of more than 800,000. Malapit na po iyong August 24 school opening so paano po ito?” Tolentino asked the DepEd. “Kung ready na po iyong 40 percent, papaano po iyong 60 percent?” he added.
Based on an international study, Tolentino said the preparation for the proper implementation of distance learning would take around six to nine months.
According to DepEd undersecetary Diosdado San Antonio, the agency aims to provide needed training for the remaining 60 percent of teachers.
“Aside from the training, there are also local initiatives from the division offices, regional offices where the teachers are also being given training activities,” San Antonio said, adding that few schools have been training their teachers on distance learning.
Tolentino also raised concern over DepEd’s ability to meet the needs of the growing number of enrollees and the content of modules that will be given to students.
The Senate hearing tackled Tolentino’s Senate Bill No. 1460, which seeks to develop a national education policy framework for online or broadcast learning delivery amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Tolentino’s measure seeks to expand the basic education curriculum by increasing the functions of the Bureau of Learning Delivery to include distance education and online learning.
“The purpose of the bill is to integrate existing effort, which are relatively scattered today. So the functions of existing bureaus, such as the Bureau of Learning Delivery, BS Services and ICTS, will now be more or less integrated into just one bureau, to make it more sustainable,” said Tolentino.
He said the bureau will address science-based concerns and adapt to technological changes, among others.