Private Schools Urge DepEd to Suspend Order on Distance Learning Requirements

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As the country prepares for the upcoming school year which is scheduled to begin on August 24, 2020, private schools are also scrambling to entice parents to still enroll their students. Many parents lost their jobs or primary sources on income amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leading many to consider transferring their kids to public schools.

But aside from the problems with possible drop in enrollment, private schools also face the pressure from the Department of Education (DepEd) to meet strict and “non-negotiable” requirements on distance learning.

DepEd Requirements for Private Schools

DepEd’s Order No. 13 Series of 2020 mandates private schools that will use online distance learning to “provide an education platform or learning management system, technical expertise to run and support the platform 24 hours a day, complete and appropriate content for the whole first quarter of the school year, and access to devices and connectivity for students and teachers, among others.”

Those that will make use of modular distancing learning will need to complete learning modules for the first quarter in print and e-copy plus references or supplementary materials for students.

Moreover, the schools should make sure to consult parents. For the system to work, the DepEd order stipulates that parents should express willingness to co-supervise the learning of their children, whether for modular or online distance learning as deemed appropriate by the school.

Private Schools’ Concerns

Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (Cocopea) managing director Joseph Noel Estrada said that the group seeks for DepEd suspension of the said order because it will “further marginalize struggling private schools”.

The group, comprised of 2,500 member schools, expressed concern over the impact of the order to most of its members. They said that no prior consultation was done before the DepEd issued the order.

What private schools need now is policy interventions to allow it to transition to flexible learning modalities with ease,” Estrada said.

This is not an inter-agency or inter-office memo. For this magnitude of impact to schools and even learners, it behooves DepEd to follow administrative due process in its quasi-legislative function.

The Cocopea claimed that as many as 400 of its member schools are at risk of closing down due to financial issues because they are running out of resources to maintain operations, particularly with the expected lower enrollment this school year.

With the public pressure from parents, including government officials, to reduce tuition, where will the private schools get the financial wherewithal to fund the ‘non-negotiable minimum requirements’ set by the DepEd in D.O. 13?Estrada asked.

Based on data from the previous school year, around 4.3 million students enrolled in private schools. But as of the fourth week of June 2020, less than 500,000 have enrolled this year.

The number could still increase since many schools have not started enrollment yet; however, the number is still dismal and could be due to parents deciding to either skip the school year or moving their kids to public schools.

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