By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter
LESS than half of the country’s 800,000 public school teachers have been trained for distance learning amid a coronavirus pandemic, leading senators to question the school system’s readiness to start online classes in August.
Education Undersecretary Diosdado M. San Antonio told a Senate hearing about 40% or 337,486 public school teachers have been trained so far, they expect to train the rest in two months.
“We hope to be able to provide the training for the remaining 60 of our fellow teachers this coming July,” he told senators.
The Department of Education’s (DepEd) division and regional offices have also been training teachers in the provinces, he added.
“Aug. 24 is fast approaching,” Senator Francis N. Tolentino said at the hearing.” What’s the plan? If only 40% of teachers are ready, what about the other 60%?”
Some senators also criticized the agency for failing to map out areas where different learning methods would be used.
“Shouldn’t you have mapped this out by June?” Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay told the hearing. “The training that you provide should be appropriate to the area.”
The Senate education committee was tackling bills that seek to adopt education policies under the so-called new normal.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the panel, cited the importance of mapping, which happens to be a provision of Senate Bill 1565.
“That mapping provision is included in my bill because you can’t plan without knowing, you can’t plan without data,” he said. “Mapping is a basic form of data collection.”
Education officials said they were still gathering data for the mapping through a poll that students and their parents answer during enrollment.
“We’re getting there,” Education Undersecretary Tonisito M.C. Umali told lawmakers, adding that they expect to come up with the best learning methods by July.
He said DepEd had yet to print the learning materials but they expect to do this before classes start in August.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said face-to-face classes won’t start until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that has sickened more than 30,000 and killed about a thousand people in the Philippines is found.
She took her cue from President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who has said he wouldn’t allow classes to open without a vaccine given the risk of an outbreak in schools.
Mr. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.
He extended the quarantine for the island twice and thrice for the capital region. The lockdown in Metro Manila has since been eased, but mass gatherings across the nation remained banned.
The Philippines has four levels of lockdowns — enhanced, modified enhanced, general and modified general community quarantine.