‘DepEd succeeded despite naysayers and doomsday scenarios’
The article by Dr. Edilberto de Jesus (“‘Victory over COVID-19,’” Business Matters, 11/7/20) raised vital concerns regarding the Department of Education’s curricular and instructional response in light of the COVID-19 challenges.
Dr. De Jesus captured the words perfectly when he said that “the most formidable problems any post-war administration had to face” is now faced by DepEd. Therefore, a problem of this magnitude needed a resolute and steady response. That was what Education Secretary Leonor Briones exhibited when she announced the opening of classes last Oct. 5, 2020, despite the din of naysayers and critics advocating for academic freeze and giving doomsday scenarios, claiming that the opening of classes just could not be done and that DepEd was not ready.
But our good Secretary was unfazed and did not back down from the challenge. Secretary Briones quickly assembled all DepEd officials, engaged government and nongovernment agencies and other private education entities, and rolled out the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (LCP), the very first comprehensive plan laid out by a government agency. While others were still grappling with what steps to take, DepEd was already hunkering down to work so education may continue. The mantra is clear: The welfare of the learners remains paramount.
Therefore, the claim of victory by Secretary Briones was not so much that everything was in place, but that the schools opened at all despite limitations. It is important to be said to the countless DepEd personnel who labored day and night so children may be given education. And it was something that needed to be said to the parents, learners, and other stakeholders who rely on DepEd for guidance, for hope, and for leadership at this very volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous time.
The LCP’s first step is to release the most essential learning competencies (MELCs), which is not just a response to address the challenges of the current pandemic but is also part of the Department’s long-term response to the call of SDG 4 to develop a resilient education system, most especially during emergencies. Strategically, this can also be used under certain circumstances as a mechanism to ensure education continuity.
With the challenges to learning delivery posed by COVID-19, the Bureau of Curriculum Development accelerated the identification of the essential learning competencies and streamlined these further into MELCs.
The determination of which learning materials to use, knowing that there would be no face-to-face classes, was guided by what resources were available and what would best provide ample opportunities for learners to learn the competencies. Textbooks were not disregarded. They are part of the learning resources that teachers and learners may use in order to learn during this pandemic, apart from Self-Learning Modules (SLMs), educational TV/radio, and online synchronous and asynchronous teaching. The use of SLMs remains to be the preferred choice in the learning delivery modality of our learners and their parents as these are interactive, self-contained, self-instructional, and compact.
We admit to not possessing the silver bullet that will make our response to this pandemic perfect. Certainly, our plans are a work in progress. We take the different criticisms and feedback as opportunities to improve what we do, and we agree with Dr. De Jesus that the MELCs will be sufficient and necessary for learners to gain mastery of only if proven by the empirical data, which we will be collecting as we conduct monitoring and evaluation activities relevant to the MELCs’ implementation. We welcome all the comments and criticisms as they contribute and help shape a more sound and transparent process of crafting educational policies.
JOCELYN DR ANDAYA
Bureau of Curriculum Development
Department of Education