It's another year of distance learning and online classes for students as the Department of Education (DepEd) declared today, Sept. 13, the official opening of school year 2021-2022.
DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan reports that this academic year, 24.6 million students have enrolled so far, 93.8% of last year's enrollment level.
Malaluan also previously said that this year's opening is expected to run smoothly because this is the second time students, teachers, and parents are going to be dealing with distance learning.
In her statement declaring the opening of classes, Secretary Briones said that to start another school year amid the pandemic is a victory and success "worthy of celebration."
"We opened classes last year. We successfully ended them. Now we are opening another school year," she said.
Despite the expectations and celebration, #AcademicBreakNow and #PagodNaKami trended on Twitter on Monday morning with students expressing their frustrations for starting another school year amid the pandemic.
Currently, #AcademicBreakNow has 16k tweets while #PagodNaKami, used in the context of school, has 14.2k tweets.
Students cite mental and physical burnout and having students being left behind as their reasons in calling for the academic break. Others are also calling for a safe resumption of physical classes.
— Artsy Lass (@LassArtsy) September 12, 2021
imagine forcing urself completing dozens of requirements while being mentally and emotionally unstable due to this pandemic and online classes, and we don't have a choice but to do it. we can all agree that we need a break. #AcademicBreakNow #PagodNaKami— ali☆ (@vrxxiao) September 12, 2021
Calls for an academic break does not encompass only the students of the university but also for the staff who are also victims of a system that negates the welfare of the people in favor of a neoliberal approach to education.#PagodNaKami #AcademicBreakNow— Tobito (@Tobitochondria) September 12, 2021
Meanwhile, the Teacher's Dignity Coalition previously appealed for a later school opening date with worries that this academic year might be a repeat of the last one.
"Many teachers are still waiting for the provided modules while others are doing their last-ditch effort of printing and reproduction using their own resources,” TDC Vice Chairperson Olivia de Guzman said.
Are face-to-face classes possible soon?
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) previously urged for a "phased reopening" of in-person classes in the Philippines.
"While new variants are causing a rise of infections, UNICEF is advocating for a phased reopening of schools, beginning in low-risk areas. This can be done on a voluntary basis with proper safety protocols in place," it said.
UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said that delaying the opening of schools could affect students.
"The associated consequences of school closures – learning loss, mental distress, missed vaccinations, and heightened risk of drop out, child labor, and child marriage – will be felt by many children, especially the youngest learners in critical development stages,” she said.
DepEd is preparing to pilot test in-person classes for kindergarten to Grade 3 in 120 public and private schools located in low-risk areas. This is, however, still subject to President Rodrigo Duterte's approval, and he has rejected it twice already.
In an interview with GMA News, Malaluan said that DepEd is consulting with medical and health experts as well as with the Department of Health about the pilot face-to-face classes. He said the dry run will include students in the younger grade level instead of college students because of the age group's resilience from infection.
"Una, ito yung age group na nakita na may greater resilience from infection and mas maliit yung incidence ng student-to-student infection," he said. "Pangalawa, ito yung age group na kailangang-kailangan yung face-to-face sa kanilang formative years at socio-emotional development."
Thumbnail and banner photo by Michael Varcas/The Philippine STAR.