As COVID-19 Changes Learning, the Education Sector Needs a Bigger Budget to Cope

As learning and teaching adjust in the time of COVID-19, the education sector will feel the effects and the toll of the drastic changes long after the pandemic has gone.

The Department of Education will need an increase in budget in the coming years as schools, teachers, and key people in education recover from the changed caused by the COVID-19 health crisis, according to Undersecretary Jesus Mateo on June 3.

In a GMANews report, Mateo called on the government for aid: "Sana po matulungan kami at masuportahan sa paglaki ng budget. Kasi po unang-una, hindi lang PS (personnel services) ang lalaki, kailangan magkaroon ng additional manpower hindi lang sa usapin ng guro pati 'yung susuporta sa guro [IT personnel] kasi mag-iiba talaga ang ating sitwasyon eh."

Almost everything must be done online or virtually in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This means a need for connectivity—an essential teachers didn’t used to need as much before the pandemic.

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"Lalaki rin po 'yung communication expenses, sa katunayan nga po ngayong enrollment na isinasagawa natin, 'yung mga teacher po nagtatawag sa mga kanilang dating estudyante—regular phone, cellphone, o kaya nag-e-email. Siyempre may mga internet expenses po iyan," he added.

It’s a struggle to remain productive during the pandemic. The crisis has become a mental burden amongst students and teachers as well, and Mateo said there must be funding to help take care of learners and educators’ mental health.

"We have to ensure yung mental health condition ng ating mga tao po. Kaya nararapat po na kailangan pa rin mag-increase ng manpower diyan o humanap ng mechanism to ensure that stable po mentally, spiritually, physically tayong lahat," Mateo said. 

But it’s not just DepEd that needs support, especially in terms of internet connectivity. According to Mateo, the other government agencies must also be prioritized so that blended forms of education can still maintain its quality and be accessible to learners.

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School Year 2020-2021 is set to start on August 24 using "blended forms" or alternative means of learning. This will consist of online lessons, broadcast and radio lectures, and at-home activities.

Over 27 million basic education students and 1.2 million teaching and non-teaching personnel at public and private schools nationwide must adjust to this new method of education, as schools are not yet allowed to physically open and operate normally.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would not allow the opening of classes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes accessible to Filipinos. With no cure or vaccine in existence, Duterte promised to "scrape the bottom of the barrel" to find funding for the alternative forms of learning proposed by DepEd.

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