School head: A glimpse on the key player of distance-learning in the Philippines
By Geraldine B. Abergos
One of the most challenged key players in the previous year’s modular learning scheme is the school head. As the direct managers of all learning institutions, they were required to integrate an adaptive learning continuity plan so the battle cry of the Department of Education (DepEd’s) “Sulong Edukalidad” will be realized. Planned programs designed to ensure a successful continuity of the teaching and learning process throughout the pandemic were provided to all learning institutions, both public and private, under the purview of its local administrators. As a result, educators, who are on the front lines of this educational crisis, bear a great amount of responsibility for taking purposeful actions and ensuring that all learners continue to receive a high-quality, inclusive, and equitable education despite the pandemic (UNESCO, 2020).
To counter the dangers posed by the pandemic in the stability of the teaching and learning performance of Philippine schools, the Department of Education spearheaded the implementation of its Basic Educational-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LECP). This program involves the dissemination of self-learning modules along with various learning modalities such as online, modular-distance learning (MDL) print, blended, television-based, and radio-based instructions to give quality education in the “new normal” context. Not only students, but also teachers and staff, have been protected from contracting COVID-19 as a result of this initiative (DepEd, 2020).
The BE-LCP program as the brainchild of DepEd required all school heads to possess strong willpower and dedication to go through with its successful implementation in their respective schools. The modality of instructional delivery has changed thus, the school system must at the same time change its method of delivery of lessons to learners. Though faced with enormous uncertainties and vulnerabilities as to how they will successfully implement the new learning modality, school heads all over the country still managed to successfully meet the goals of the initiative in their immediate demesne.
While DepEd’s BE-LCP initiative was applied in all learning institutions for the past two years, it cannot be denied that it met its share of hurdles and challenges, both in the national and local setting of its integration to all schools. Modular learning, a learning modality included in the BE-LCP program, became the most popular learning technique in the Philippine setting as it readily considers the learners in remote locations who do not have access to internet for online learning. While modular learning has become the most widely used learning technique in all Philippine schools, it cannot be denied that there have concerns and uncertainties regarding its effectiveness in giving a proper learning system to all learners.
School heads throughout the country have reported a wide-ranged of problems in utilizing this learning modality for their respective schools. The first hurdle that easily became evident is the misinterpretation of some parents and guardians in the process of modular learning. Most parents and guardians of learners were not able to comprehend that they have a critical role in the delivery of instruction to their children. Parents were expected to assist their children as they accomplish the lessons in the module, but most were apprehensive that they may not have even the basic skills the lesson requires to properly teach their children. Many simply assumed that receiving the self-learning modules from the teachers was the only process they needed to consider to educate the children under their care, not realizing the fact that as the immediate companions of the learners, they are vital to the proper implementation of the distance learning program of DepEd. In this case, school heads must anticipate a potential back-up plan if the parents cannot effectively provide a proper learning system to their children.
Another glaring predicament our school heads face as they implemented the new learning modality is the reproduction of modules. Though DepEd No. 15 s. 2020 clearly says that expenses relative to the reproduction, and distribution of learning modules are considered eligible expense items, the meager budget from the schools Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) obstructs schools to provide the standard 1:1 ratio module for all learners. Due to this inconsistency, schools are forced to compartmentalized via sets the available self-learning modules in order to effectively accommodate all learners mandated to utilize them.
While the situation seemed bleak in the first implementation of the BE-LCP, school heads gradually learned to adjust and seek ways to properly address the issues/concerns that hampered the integration of the learning program to their individual institutions. School heads learned to rely heavily on the possible assistance they can seek from the Local School Board through its Special Education Fund (SEF) to help them augment the budget for the reproduction of their given learning materials. However, considering that DepEd is not the only agency enduring the effect of the pandemic, LGUs real property tax has likewise suffered. The expected collection from real property tax has subsided to most LGUs, leaving public schools to receive limited SEF allocation.
Interestingly, school heads do not remain complacent over the situation, they exhaust all means of generating resources to sustain their school’s material and monetary deficiencies to the point of literally begging from benevolent stakeholders in their immediate vicinities; yet as they “beg” for help they remain humble and dignified as expected of members of the educational machinery of the state.
The pandemic has put everyone to a test, it measured how brave and resilient an individual could be. Fear and uncertainty were prevalent, yet our school heads remained courageous and dedicated to the oaths they swore to provide an efficient delivery of educational service to all learners. They continued to remain true in their duties and responsibilities to address the challenges brought by the new normal, bolstering the morale of their subordinates and effectively attaining the goals expected of them by the Department of Education.
It is but fitting to accord our school heads one’s respect and admiration for their commendable efforts and determination to go forth with the implementation of the BE-LCP despite the heavy criticisms received for this method. It is through them that the success of the BE-LCP was realized, and its goals attained. May they continue to provide excellent service to the organization and ensure the proper application of all educational programs to improve the teaching and learning performance of the teachers and learners of the Philippines. Hurrah to all our school heads!