Lopsided enrolment data show poor rural learners will be left behind — ACT

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines raised concerns on the 6.4 million enrolment turnout after the first week of June as revealed by the Department of Education (DepEd), saying that about half of those who enrolled came from only three largely urbanized regions—namely Central Luzon with 1.2 million and NCR with 800 thousand as of today, and Region IV-A with 1.2 million as of June 6—and thus had relatively better access to remote enrolment.

Meanwhile, the low turnout in the remaining 14 regions, the group added, tells of the ‘severely limited’ access in these areas where ‘economic conditions are harsher.’

“The enrolment data DepEd brags about reveals an alarming reality—constituents in poorer and more remote rural areas have little to no access to remote modalities, indicating that millions of poor children in provinces will likely be left behind if classes will officially resume through distance learning. Socio-economic disparity will be on full display as less and less youth will be able to access education,” lamented ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

Basilio said that the ‘no vaccine, no face-to-face classes’ plan of DepEd and the President will further deny poor children access to education as only those with gadgets and internet connection will be able to partake in the official school year. DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones, meanwhile, argued that those from remote areas will have the option of learning through radio and television programs, adding that the new modalities under DepEd’s Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) have long been used for education delivery.

ACT, however, slammed this as an ‘inaccurate representation of these alternative modes’ for these have only been used largely to supplement face-to-face learning, even the printed module approach will entail teachers’ monitoring and intervention through technological means to enable the no face-to-face order.

ACT also hit DepEd’s ‘empty assurance’ to the public that it is vigorously working on ensuring that education is ‘available and thriving’ amid the pandemic.

“Availability is senseless without accessibility and quality. The new modalities can’t wholly replace face-to-face learning, especially given the country’s technological backwardness and widespread poverty. So the government shall endeavor in addressing the biggest roadblocks to classroom learning—the threat of COVID-19, the unsafe conditions of our schools, and the quality of education.

These require considerable amounts of resources, for which the government—not teachers nor parents—is primarily responsible,” declared Basilio.

ACT slammed DepEd’s ‘myopic approach’ to education and insensitivity to the realities of Filipino families.

The group challenged the agency and the President to employ a comprehensive response to the various needs of the Filipino people amid the pandemic.

“Education cannot be detached from the health and socio-economic aspects of learners and education workers. Hence, we stand by our demands for the entire government to effectively combat COVID-19, ensure school safety, and protect people’s rights,” concluded Basilio.