Lay down plans for blended learning in far-flung areas

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Thursday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to lay down specific plans for blended learning in basic education, particularly for far-flung areas that have limited access to distance education requirements, including the Internet.

“I know what the general instructions (of the President) are, but are there going to be exceptions to these rules? Because it’s even harder to deliver distance learning materials for some barangays which have no exposure or may have very limited exposure to the virus,” the senator asked DepEd officials during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

Cayetano was referring to the general directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), that face-to-face classes shall remain suspended until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available.

“Of course we will follow the directive. Don’t get me wrong. But I am proposing that you..make clear what is needed for other scenarios, like in many far-flung areas,” she added.

The senator had been urging DepEd to present concrete proposals since the sixth weekly report of the President was submitted to Congress pursuant to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

In the comment she submitted in response to the President’s report, Cayetano asked DepEd to prepare a blended learning method that would include time in school, “provided it is safe… and social distancing measures are in place, such as having a smaller number of students to attend a few days a week on a rotational basis for interaction with their teachers.”

“I’ve been to barangays in the mountains that are not accessible to cars… Yung kaisa-isa o dalawang teacher sa barangay, kahalubilo naman nila ang mga estudyante to begin with because [their community is] isolated. Mas mahirap pang mag-deliver doon ng distance learning,” she explained.

Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio, in response, acknowledged that the DepEd is aware of the realities that Cayetano pointed out. He said in these particular cases, teachers are allowed to meet a small number of neighboring learners on a regular basis so they can provide guidance in person, but not necessarily inside the schools.

“Those are options that the schools have in terms of ensuring the availability of an opportunity for the youngsters in far-flung areas to be able to learn… Our Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) has identified that as an option,” Usec. San Antonio explained.

Cayetano said DepEd should exert more effort in clarifying and addressing these special scenarios since they already recognize that the situation exists. She said the agency should bring this to the attention of decision-making bodies to carve out better systems of learning for far-flung areas. #

Pre-pandemic picture from Lusod Community School in Brgy. Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet. Sitio Lusod is an upland community which Senator Pia Cayetano has visited several times.

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