As the country continues to confront different issues brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Education (DepEd) is addressing the challenges in the basic education for the school year 2020-2021 through its Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) under DepEd Order No. 012, s. 2020.
The BE-LCP is consistent with the mandate of Section 1, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution for the state to protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and to take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all. Under Section 6, Chapter 1 of Republic Act No. 9155, or the Governance of Basic Education Act of 2001, DepEd is vested with the authority, accountability, and responsibility for ensuring access to, promoting equity in, and improving the quality of basic education.
Hence, the BE-LCP aims to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the learners, teachers, and personnel in the time of COVID-19, while finding ways for education to continue amidst the crisis. In particular, the BE-LCP has been designed with a legal framework responsive to the “new normal,” keeping in mind the constitutional mandate to uphold the right of all citizens to quality education at all times.
In line with this, the learning delivery modalities that schools can adopt may be one or a combination of the following, depending on the local health conditions, the availability of resources, and the particular context of the learners in the school or locality:
1. Face-to-face. This refers to a modality where the students and the teacher are both physically present in the classroom, and there are opportunities for active engagement, immediate feedback, and socio-emotional development of learners. Notably, this modality is feasible only in very low risk areas with no history of infection, easily monitored external contacts, and with teachers and learners living in the vicinity of the school.
2. Distance learning. This refers to a modality where learning takes place between the teacher and the learners who are geographically remote from each other during instruction. This modality has three types, namely: Modular Distance Learning, Online Distance Learning, and Television/Radio-Based Instruction. This is most viable for independent learners, and learners supported by periodic supervision of parents or guardians.
3. Blended Learning.This refers to a learning delivery that combines face-to-face with any, or a mix of, Modular Distance Learning, Online Distance Learning, and Television/Radio-Based Instruction. Blended learning will enable the schools to limit face-to-face learning, ensure social distancing, and decrease the volume of people outside the home at any given time.
4. Homeschooling. This modality aims to provide learners with quality basic education that is facilitated by qualified parents, guardians, or tutors who have undergone relevant training in a home-based environment. However, this modality will be the subject of a later DepEd issuance since there remain several issues in its implementation, including the supervision of licensed teachers and alignments with the standard curriculum.
In application, however, the BE-LCP is confronted with different challenges.
First, in the implementation of the various learning delivery modalities, the challenge will be in dealing with learners under any of the modes of distance learning or blended learning who are not capable of learning independently, or who are not periodically supported by their parents or guardians. Also critical for the implementation will be the mass production of the needed teachers and learners’ learning materials, as well as the support of media institutions like TV and radio stations.
Second, DepEd will need substantial and additional financial resources in order to meet the objectives of the BE-LCP. This is where the support of the respective local government units, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders become indispensable.
Third, the holistic development of students will likely be affected. With the BE-LCP in place, the students will have limited opportunities for interaction with their teachers and classmates. Thus, their learning outcomes may be affected, and there may be negative impacts on the students who cannot easily cope with the change. This is where support interventions not only by DepEd but also by the family becomes relevant to mitigate this effect.
Verily, the learning environment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic will be very different. Yet, the DepEd is optimistic that despite the various socio-economic situations of families which affect the provision of learning support in the home, and the peculiar needs of different learners, the BE-LCP could be the key to providing quality basic education which is accessible and responsive in the new normal.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.
Jenny Ann A. Pimentel-Tibon is an Associate of the Cebu Branch of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW).