“It is boringly normal.”
That’s how Education Secretary Leonor Briones described Monday’s opening of the new school year for about 22 million public school students.
Thorough preparations gave little space for chaos and confusion that usually mark the first day of classes.
“The enrollment process was generally peaceful and the turnout is hopefully as expected,” Briones said in a press briefing.
The Department of Education (DepEd) was expecting enrollment to increase from last year by 6 percent with 22.89 million students in 53,043 public schools across the country.
Initial reports showed no major problems, except for some schools in northern Mindanao, which were swamped with late enrollees from households that fled the fighting between government forces and terrorists in Marawi City.
Briones said 20,000 pupils who were displaced from the city would be enrolling late in other schools, particularly in the cities of Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and Cotabato, and even in Luzon, where there were large Muslim communities.
“This is supposed to be a school with a lack of classrooms, but the resumption of classes was very orderly. We didn’t see large crowds waiting for their turn, shouting and pushing,” she said at President Corazon Aquino High School.
As early as 7 a.m., students were already standing in neat lines for the flag ceremony.
The school, in the impoverished community of Baseco, so far has about 3,000 enrollees who will be attending classes in two shifts—from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Average class size is 50.
Out of the 780 public schools in Metro Manila, 75 percent of elementary schools and 69 percent of high schools continue to adopt double-shift classes to ease the shortage in classrooms.
Metro Manila badly needs at least 18,058 classrooms, or equivalent to a four-story building constructed in each of the public schools, in order to reach the ideal situation of single-shift classes with only 40 to 45 students per classroom, said Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua.
“Because of innovations done by principals, like splitting classrooms in two or holding classes in two or three shifts, there is virtually no shortage but in reality, there are more than 18,000 classrooms that we have to build,” Pascua said.
“But we cannot build these because of lack of buildable space. So we also need to replan our school building strategy in Metro Manila due to this situation,” he added.
Briones also brought up DepEd’s plan to establish school communities outside Metro Manila to cope with the lack of space for new school buildings and the continuously growing enrollment every year.
Under this plan, students from the capital will be transported daily to these school communities using a busing system.
She said officials had started identifying areas where schools could be built.
“We will start with the preliminary planning and we will also meet with the mayors of Metro Manila,” she said.
High-rise school buildings
There was still an option to build high-rise buildings, but this entailed more cost and safety considerations due to the threat of natural calamities, such as earthquakes.
“If we are to build more high-rise buildings, we will need cofinancing with the local government units,” Briones said.
But the shortage of classrooms was more of an exception than the general rule, according to Assistant Education Secretary Nepomuceno Malaluan.
“We have to look at the shortage issue in proportion to the total schools we have,” Malaluan said.
Based on data, fewer schools actually needed “support and interventions” compared with those adequately equipped, he noted.
Malaluan said only 1.51 percent of the more than 38,000 public elementary schools, 1.96 percent of the 8,282 junior high schools and 6.56 percent of nearly 6,000 public senior high schools, were identified to be “needing support.”
The majority of these schools are in congested urban areas, such as Metro Manila, Calabarzon and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, he said.
DepEd officials attributed the orderly resumption of classes to the intensive preparations under “Oplan Balik Eskwela.”
Undersecretary Jesus Mateo said the dry runs that schools in Metro Manila went through a week ago helped ease the anxiety and the disorder that usually attended the first day of classes.
“The opening of classes is improving over the years even with the usual hiccups in selected schools due to many factors, which include the continued substantial increase of our budget and the participation of other stakeholders,” Mateo said.
source: News INfo Inquirer
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