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DepEd, CHED asked to ‘initiate academic freeze’ until virus mass testing is conducted

By: Katrina Hallare - Inquirer.net | July 03,2020 - 08:18 AM

MANILA, Philippines — A youth group on Thursday, July 2, 2020, called on the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to introduce an “academic freeze” until mass testing for the coronavirus is carried out.

In a statement, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) also urged DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones and CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III to cancel planned online classes, saying it is “anti-poor”, and continue the compensation of academic and non-academic employees.

“We urge these government agencies to fulfill their mandate by siding with students, teachers, and academic and non-academic employees, instead of greedy capitalist-educators,” Spark said.

The group’s statement comes as DepEd reported a dismal enrollment turnout of 15.9 million students in public and private schools under the K-12 curriculum.

The number was 12 million pupils short of the 28 million that was earlier set by Briones.

DepEd subsequently extended the deadline for the enrollment period in public schools to July 15.

The opening of classes for the upcoming academic year is slated for August 24.

As for colleges and universities, CHED said those that implement “flexible learning,” which uses “digital and non-digital technology,” can start in August while other higher education institutions that use “residential learning” or face-to-face learning can open by September.

“The actions taken by the government in assuring the continuation of learning despite the global COVID-19 pandemic have ignored the pleas of the majority of the country’s students, whose lives have been upturned not only by the direct onset of the pandemic but its economic and financial repercussions as well,” Spark said.

“They have instead sided with various private educational institutions whose capitalist ideals still prevail during this dreadful time,” it added.

The group then raised the concern of students who are still unenrolled.

“If 12 million students were left behind during the enrollment process alone, how many more stand to lose out in the months ahead?” the group pointed out.

“What use is a continuous yet low-quality and inaccessible form of education when our own future is at stake? If the cases continue to rise as it has been in the past weeks since the start of the General Community Quarantine, then what more should we expect when we return to physical classes?” it further raised.

Spark said “now is the time” for Briones and De Vera “to prove your commitment to providing quality and accessible education for students.”

“If not, these dismal enrollment numbers will just be the beginning of the unraveling of the broken Philippine educational system in this time of crisis,” it said.

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