/ 27 July 2020

A TEACHERS’ group has welcomed the new law allowing the opening of classes beyond August of every year.

Republic Act 11480 was a consolidation of Senate Bill 1541 and House Bill 6895 approved by both chambers late May of this year.

The new law amended Republic Act 7797, which sets the school opening between the first Monday of June and the last day of August, maintained the preference for the current school calendar but would empower the President, upon the recommendation of the Education Secretary, to set a different date for the start of the school year.

“The need for this law is urgent. Barely a month to go before the scheduled opening of classes on 24 August, we are all witness to the unabated rise of Covid19 cases which even surpassed the estimates of UP experts,” said the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition national chairperson Benjo Basas in a statement.

“While the Department of Education will use new modalities, it is still undeniable that movement of people involved in education service will still be necessary, and we are talking about a million DepEd personnel that would cater to some 22 million children, albeit online, modular, or any sort of distance modality,” Basa said.

The TDC head added: “We hope that the President will exercise the power provided by this law should he find it necessary. If not, then the law will still be relevant.”

The TDC is continuously raising concerns on the preparedness of DepEd to facilitate distance learning, citing the lack of necessary materials like internet connectivity, radio and TV broadcast facilities, and even printed modules for the so-called distance learning modality.

“On top of this, the continuous rise in the number of Covid19 cases should also be the main concern of the government when it finally decides to push through with the opening of the new school year next month,” Basas stressed.

The TDC chair, who participated in some congressional hearings for this legislation, said the law will not halt the scheduled school opening in August, but would rather give prerogative to the President to decide on the date of school opening for future emergencies or any fortuitous event that would make schooling impractical.

“We welcome this legislation and we hope the President will use his prerogative to move the opening of classes this year, if he finds it necessary. In this period of uncertainty, the utmost care for health and safety of the people should be the greatest priority, and moving the school calendar beyond August would surely help our fight against the pandemic,” Basas reiterated.

Citing studies from UP Resilience Institute that the safe school opening is after December 2020 and the obvious lack of infrastructure and capacity of the school system for distance learning, the TDC agreed that SY 2020-2021 may be moved to January 2021.