The Department of Education (DepEd) is firm on its stand to open classes on August 24 even as its national virtual launching Monday of its readiness program “Handang Isip, Handa Bukas” suffered technical glitches.

The launching which was supposed to start around 9 a.m. followed by a virtual press conference impeded the dry run due to audio problems.

Education Sec. Leonor Briones said the opening of classes will happen on August 24 and it is no longer possible to change their decision since the learning modalities they will use can be applied with or without face-to-face interaction.

“Right from the beginning, sinasabi naman namin na na-stretch na namin ‘yong pinaka last day na allowed ng law and the president is aware of this. We had a briefing with him before he went to Davao. He is now in Davao. When he comes back, we will be briefing him on what is happening and etcetera. Pero palagay ko yong August 24 has always been… we have never changed that date because it is blended learning, it can be done with or without face-to-face,” she said.

“Yong issue na yan which is always being brought up, well… palagay namin the dialogue is going on sa social media. But as far as we are concerned, talagang August 24 na talaga ang target date, that’s why we are launching it now on August 10 para i-emphasized natin uli,” Briones added.

Briones cited Singapore and other countries which have already started their online classes when there is still COVID-19 pandemic.

She said Singapore even has one to two days of face-to-face classes with their schools ensuring teachers and students are following strict protocols.

“Yong ibang mga country, halimbawa Singapore, they have one or two days of face-to-face classes. Sa atin sa Pilipinas hindi puwede kasi ‘yon nga hinihintay pa natin na talagang assured tayo ng safety ng ating learners. Kami naman we agree with that kind of position,” she said.

Briones reiterated that learning continuity is important so the production of professionals is not affected.

She added that it will be hard for the Philippines if it gets stuck in basic education because many Filipinos will be left behind by their counterparts in other Asian countries.

“All over the world, schools are already opening madedehado ang mga anak natin, ang ating mga apo. Maiiwanan sila at saka mismo ang bansa natin, maiiwanan din kasi hindi makapag-aral ang engineer o doctor or nurse kung ang isang bata hindi makakapagtapos. Maii-stuck tayo sa basic education at made-delay ang supply natin ng professionals na kailangan natin dito hindi lang sa buong mundo kung hindi sa buong bansa,” she said.

Briones also said that even in the provinces, the parents and the DepEd personnel are all preparing for the opening of classes and are well aware that it will start on August 24.

“When you go to the provinces the teachers, the regional directors, the superintendents are preparing for August 24. You have 22.9 million learners already enrolled and who are aware that classes will begin on August 24 pero walang face-to-face and that’s what we keep on saying at this time even as early as April,” she said.

Briones if learning continuity is hampered, there is a chance that the learners will lose interest. This is one consideration that everyone must think about instead of just complaining about the opening of classes.

Various groups calling for the postponement of the opening of classes should think of the children who might, later on, have trouble compared to other learners in other countries.

“I believe this is a very serious consideration, think of the children sila naman talaga ang focus ng attention natin and right now may mga lumalabas na sa iba-ibang pag-aaral na kung tatagal tayo at tatagal ay magkakaroon talaga tayo ng mga challenges regarding [our] children,” she added.

On the glitches that interfered with the national launching of the readiness program, Briones said there are other means that the DepEd is ready to explore if it will not work.

She said there are still other learning modes that will work, they just need to pursue them. Among those being considered is using the radio to teach the learners.

“There are many families who do not want online — this is the advantage of having many options. There are many combinations you can try,” Briones said.

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Jayra Joyce Cañete Taboada handles the law and order and the science and education beats. She is also a licensed professional teacher.