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Davao City, Philippines

Go appeals for flexible tuition payment schemes

May 23, 2020 - Saturday 2:05 AM by Ruth Palo

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DAVAO CITY — Senator Christopher Lawrence Go called on schools, universities, and other educational institutions to provide flexible payment arrangements for school fees to ensure the continuing education of students amid the public health crisis.

"Many people have lost jobs and do not have enough money to send their children to school. Can we ease up the payment schemes and give them more time to pay tuition?” Go said during a hearing of the Senate acting as the Committee of the Whole on Thursday, May 21.

"Many parents may not be able to pay large amounts. It is important that the studies of their children do not get delayed or stopped altogether,” he added.

During the hearing, Go also asked about the schedule of opening of the next school year and the steps to be taken by the government in assisting students, teachers, and non-teaching personnel in schools and to ensure their health and safety.

In response, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said most teachers, students, school officials, and parents still prefer to start the school year in August based on a survey conducted by the department.

"We conducted an extensive survey with more than 700,000 participants- — teachers, learners, officials, and parents — asking them when they want school to open. This is because there are some private schools want to open in June," Briones said.

She said the law specifically provides that school opening may be done not later than the last week of August.

She also said the Department of Education (DepEd) will authorize the use of blended education so teachers can conduct learning remotely to ensure the safety of their students.

“It can be a mixed arrangement. Some can be done online and we will see how many parents and children can do it,” she said, adding that smartphones will also be used to transmit lessons.

For students who do not have access to smartphones, Briones said DepEd will explore the use of the television and radio to ensure the continuing learning of the students amid the quarantine protocols currently in place in many parts of the country.

Briones said she will be meeting officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) next week to discuss how government-run television and radio stations may be utilized as alternative platforms to deliver lessons.

This is in response to Go’s earlier call for DepEd and educational institutions to explore possible online or distance learning programs for students to be able to continue their studies without putting them at harm or adding burden to them and their families as government continues to fight the outbreak.

At the hearing, Go asked Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Dr. J. Prospero de Vera III about the measures to be implemented by the government so that alternative modes of learning do not cause unnecessary stress to the families of the students in the tertiary level.

De Vera said the commission is advising the use of flexible learning using both online and offline modes.

"The objective of flexible learning is to decongest classes so that not all students will come in at the same time. It doesn’t mean they won’t go to school anymore; it’s just that the number of students in school will be reduced so that social distancing can be practiced,” he said.

“So this is not necessarily purely online. The schools that can go online can do it,” he added.

Noting the fact that some higher educational institutions have been used as quarantine isolation areas, Go also sought the assurance of concerned government agencies to ensure the safety of the students.

"There are fears that students will be dangerously exposed when they go to school that are being used as quarantine facility. Kindly check that also," he said.