STUDENTS of both public and private elementary and high schools faced problems of classroom and teacher lack as they trooped back to school on Monday.
Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones, however, said the Department of Education (DepED) is already addressing the shortage in classrooms, and some 85,000 classrooms are expected to be added this year.
Briones, who visited Quezon City High School on Monday, said most of the classroom shortages are in Metro Manila.
Some schools, like Parañaque National High School, is forced to host two shifts, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Parañaque National High School has the largest student population in Metro Manila at 13,000.
Briones also cited the lack of spaces where school buildings can be constructed.
Addressing the claim of Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers that the government had not completed construction of nearly 82,000 classrooms, Education Undersecretary for Planning and Field Operations Jesus Lorenzo R. Mateo said that there is no shortage but “challenges. ”
Currently, there is a classroom for every 45 students, Mateo said. There is 1 teacher for every 33 students in the elementary, and 1 teacher for every 26 students in the secondary level.
DepEd data show 22 million students are enrolled in public schools, and 4 million in private schools.
In public schools, 2.2 million are kindergarten pupils, 12.2 million are elementary students, 6.4 million are junior high school (Grades 7 to 10) students and 1.3 million are senior high school (Grades 11 and 12) students.
In private schools, 243,818 are in kindergarten, 1.2 million in elementary, 1.3 million in junior high school and 1.2 million in senior high school.
The DepEd said 149,614 junior and senior high school students in the technical and vocational (tech-voc) track will go to state universities and colleges and to local universities and colleges; while 641,584 are enrolled in the Alternative Learning System or ALS.
‘No major problems’
Meanwhile, Briones noted there were no reports of major problems encountered by schools nationwide.
She said the commitments of other agencies, such as the Philippine National Police (PNP), contributed to the smooth opening of classes.
As part of its efforts to ensure a smooth school opening, the DepEd set in motion its flagship programs and projects to ensure that learners are hosted by schools with a child-friendly, gender-sensitive, safe, and motivating environment.
Brigada Eskwela or the National Schools Maintenance Week, which ran from May 28 to June 2, with the theme, “Pagkakaisa para sa Handa, Ligtas, at Matatag na Paaralan Tungo sa Magandang Kinabukasan,” mobilized the communities and various sectors to prepare the schools’ physical facilities, and ensure the safety and preparedness of learners and personnel during emergencies.
As of 8 a.m. of May 31, partial data reflected that a total of P1,121,408,164.27 worth of resources were already generated, and 1,205,388 volunteers rendered man-hours from 12 regions of the country.
“The outpouring of love and support from our partners and stakeholders – parents, teachers, community members, local government units, national government agencies, civil society groups, non-government organizations, private individuals and corporations, and everyone who believes in the power of education—has been overwhelming,” Briones said.
Meanwhile, the DepEd’s Oplan Balik Eskwela attended to the concerns of enrollees, their parents, and other stakeholders.
An interagency task force was also convened to attend to the learners’ and other stakeholders’ needs, including electrical and road safety, adequate power and water supply, access to health care, justified pricing of commodities, protection and security from criminal elements, and assistance in crisis situations.
School readiness assessment
THE DepEd also conducted a nationwide inventory and assessment of the readiness of public schools in terms of six basic variables: teachers, classrooms, seats, toilets, and availability of water and electricity.
The assessment allowed the DepEd to prioritize interventions for schools that need support in achieving the ideal ratios of 1:40 for teachers and classrooms; 1:50 for toilets, and 1:1 for seats.