Private schools call for cancellation of school opening

The Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) issued the call following the announcement of some local government units (LGUs) that they will allocate funds for devices that will support online learning and the donation of gadgets as announced by some private groups and individuals.

“Private schools are apprehensive as to the actual situation as well as feeling down about being left out,” FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag told the Manila Bulletin. “If there is nothing we can expect from the government, we will just let us go with our plan to operate this school year,” he added.

Member-schools of FAPSA have almost three million students in 3,000 private schools. FAPSA members expressed readiness to start their classes as early as June using various alternative modalities, particularly online learning. However, as donations of gadgets and devices are “flooding” public schools, private schools feel “left out.”

Kasilag said that private schools, particularly its teachers, have yet to receive any form of assistance from the government since community quarantines were implemented due to COVID-19. “No SAP [Social Amelioration Program] up to now, some still yet to receive TSS [Teachers’ Salary Subsidy Program], we are ready to close,” he lamented.

Cities in Metro Manila have announced their allocation of a budget to support blended/distance learning as proposed by the Department of Education (DepEd) for this coming school year.

Quezon City will allot P2.9-billion for gadgets, modules, and internet allowances for 430,000 enrollees and increased connectivity in schools. The City of Manila also announced that it will buy hundreds of tablets and laptops worth P994 million for students and teachers. Pasig City also raised P1.2 billion for gadgets and laptops for public schools.

San Juan City will also procure thousands of tablets and hundreds of laptops as part of the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) pilot city free Wi-Fi project. Paranaque City will be donating tablets to kinder and Grade 1, and laptops plus internet allowance to public school teachers. Earlier, Biñan City turned over 151 laptops and 200 Smart TVs to public schools.

DepEd also announced that it will be providing laptops, tablets, and desktop computers to public school teachers. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also issued minimum specifications to LGUs, groups, and individuals wishing to donate tablets to public schools.

All these developments, Kasilag said, make it harder for private schools to sustain their operations. “This pandemic has reduced the globe to a school campus, where all parents become teachers of their kids,” he said. “When schools open, students will be clicking, typing, and researching on new laptops or tablets, and these developments shall be chaotic and catastrophic,” he added.

Kasilag cautioned that implementing online learning or tablet education is not a “walk in the park.” He explained that to be able to integrate the gadgets into curricula, there are glitches to be expected. “We can hardly expect quality the entire school year. Education is certain to go to waste if it is going to be another tablet education in disguise of Online Learning as well as Blended Learning,” he said.

FAPSA also expressed concern over the “dangers” of online learning because “some students will use tablets to exchange answers on tests, Facebook, YouTube music and movies, hacking, even going to indecent cites, and they manage to trick unsuspecting teachers.” Kasilag also cited the country’s slow Internet speed.

Kasilag, who runs St. Nicholas in Marikina City, said that since tablet education was introduced in 2012, these perennial problems have persisted. “After eight years, literally, not much impact on student achievement,” he admitted. “The teachers were telling us when there is a one-to-one relationship between the student and the tablet, the tablet dominates,” he added.

For FAPSA, it is a “distraction to the educational process when schools put technology directly into students’ hands without tablet policy.”

Options for learners, schools

FAPSA noted that the local government units (LGU), with their mayors and governors, should be directly involved in running the schools, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR) where tablets have been donated.

“After all, in any community, they are really the leaders mandated to keep track of the situation during this pandemic not to mention the reality that they are the financiers of schools,” Kasilag said. “The LGU heads build the school buildings and LGUs can pay the teachers,” he added.

Kasilag said private schools that can readily meet the challenge of online learning with connectivity and authentic program may be allowed to open with the DepEd monitoring them through the Learning Continuity Plan (LCP.) “Holding of classes shall also apply to cities with resources as well as schools in the provinces not much affected by COVID-19, they too can open this school year,” he said. “DepEd of course can monitor and help in the regulation of academic situations of schools,” he added.

However, Kasilag said that private schools without adequate resources based on LCP, “may be requested to join the public school volunteers receiving the same benefits like the public school teachers.”

Kasilag said that there are FAPSA members who are not ready without face-to-face learning and their request is for them to also “be financed just like the public schools.”

Heed ‘no vaccine, no classes’ call

FAPSA expressed its support for the “no vaccine, no classes” pronouncement of President Duterte. “The call of the president is more on the health and security of the students but it is relevant and very practical on the tool the students will take,” Kasilag said.

Kasilag noted that the planned Blended learning using TV and radio may too be costly. “Do we have willing networks to use their full air time for DepEd?” he asked. He also noted that learning using these modalities will be a “one-way street” since there will be no interaction involved.

The suggestion of some teachers groups not to hold classes this school year, FAPSA said, may prove to be the most palatable. “Heed the advice of the President of ‘no vaccine, no class’,” Kasilag said.

In the process, Kasilag said there will be a year of adjustment. “This shall give enough time to DepEd and all stakeholders to prepare and emerge by school year 2021-2022 if face to face is still not much feasible,” he said.