Speech of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines at the Regional Virtual National/World Teachers’ Day Celebration cum Creating Connections in Modular Distance Learning Training Program Launch
Good morning everyone! Usec [Tonisito MC Umali], maraming salamat sa lahat ng tulong sa aming opisina. Siyempre, RD Gilbert [Sadsad]; ARD [Ronelo] Firmo; si Dr. Grace [Rabelas]; si Dean Shiela [Dingcong], nandito, of Thames International. ‘Yung ating lahat na mga teachers, mga SDS, lahat na mga DepEd officials who are here this morning. Good morning also to all the LGU officials who are here. Again, marhay na aga saindo gabos, and belated Happy Teachers’ Day ulit. Mabalos sa gabos na ginigibo nindo to make sure that none of your students will be left behind during this pandemic.
Aram ko po that everything is all new to you—actually all new to all of us. Pero siguro kamo, you have been so used to the routine of preparing for the opening of classes, perhaps with your colleagues, at your desks, swamped with preparations that need to be done before students rush into your classrooms. Pero ngunyan, ibahon na maray. I know that dawa sibot man girarary o baka ngani mas sibot pa, with the threat of COVID-19 still very real, we have to adjust our methods and adapt to the rising challenges.
Even as you have been strong pillars of support for others, I know that you also have anxieties and doubts. Sisay man ang di magkakaigwa nin anxieties at a time like this. But we at the Office of the Vice President are very much aware of your struggles. Over the course of the lockdown, we’ve met online with several groups—teachers, advocates, school officials, and even subject matter experts—and a theme cut across many of their concerns: our preparedness for blended learning. This includes not only conducting online classes, but the entire process that surrounds it: from preparing, printing, and distributing modules, to adjusting to new modes of teaching; from addressing one’s own concerns about health and safety in the workplace, to making sure that students are equipped with the right technology and is learning in a conducive environment. Sa mga nag-agi pong semana, we have been meeting with RD Gilbert, with Dr. Grace, and other officials from DepEd Region V, to see how our office can help in this transition to new modalities of learning.
There are a lot of questions which abound and this is expected because there is so much uncertainty around us. Kasi COVID-19 may have forcibly put our lives on hold, but this does not mean that education has to stop, kaya po ini ang pigsisibutan ta ngunyan. There have been some indications of what we can do. According to a survey conducted by the Department of Education, modular learning is still the most preferred alternative learning modality by parents nationwide. Here in the Bicol Region, sabi ni RD Gilbert, it is still the dominant choice—kung dai ako nagkakasala, 90 percent of teachers will be doing modular learning, while only 10 percent will be doing online instruction. Challenges to this learning delivery modality have been raised even as we anticipate and prepare for the conduct of classes.
Kadakol na po kitang istorya nga nadangog from teachers saka tungkol sa teachers, about the heroism and the sacrifices of teachers just to be able to perform their vocation. Nababasa ta ngunyan sa mga bareta, nahihiling ta sa Facebook. Si mga teachers na nagbibiyahe, naglalakaw pirang oras para lang makaabot sa sindang mga assignments. Nagko-cross nin mga rivers, talagang nagsasakat sa bukid, nagsasakat sa atup, para lang makakua ning mga signal. Si kasakitan kan printing and distributing modules to their students, etc.
Kadakol talaga maray. Ang nahihiling ta, some are… kansuudma lang, we saw teachers na naka camp sa sarong highway, dahil yaon duman si signal, para lang maka spot ning good Internet connection, para makaattend sinda ning webinars, or download resources for teaching. Many are risking life and limb, exposing themselves to possible infection, while fulfilling your duties. Some are using money out of your own pocket to buy paper and printers, just so their students don’t get left behind in their lessons. Talagang iyo ini ang buhay kan maestra, but this is so unfair na kamo ang ma-shoulder kang mga kinakaipuhan sa classroom. Si mga teachers ta digdi sa Region V, aram ini. Even before the beginning of classes, printing modules can be a challenge, kasi ang pondo talaga is simply not enough. Masuwerte itong mga pro-active ang mga LGUs, dahil ang LGUs ang nakakatabang. Pero not everyone is similarly situated. Some of you have resorted to printing modules on your own, have been soliciting funds to provide the needed materials for students. Ang distribution challenging rin: Based on feedback from the teachers that we have been in contact with, some parents have not been as responsive, so they needed to find other ways to get in touch with them, like personally going to their homes or calling them through their neighbors. Ang problema kani, diba with the threat of the pandemic, ine-expose ka din ang sarili ta sa kadakol na risks.
Pero more than being moved by your inspiring stories and the fact that you are so dedicated to your profession, I feel that we owe it to you to do our best so that our educators will also not be left behind. These realities give us more reason to focus on the gaps that need to be addressed, and what we can do is ease our educators’ burden.
Actually bago mi piglaunch si mga programa we had a meeting with Usec Dads. Hinahapot mi, sain kami puwedeng maglaom na dai pa nindo naaabot, kasi we do not want to replicate what DepEd has already been doing. Duman na lang kami sa kung ano si kulang.
This brings us to our gathering today. We are launching this modular training program… training program for modular teaching. We are fueled by the same resolve: To ensure that our teachers are equipped with knowledge and skills, supported in every way possible, and empowered moving forward to facilitate modular learning and design activities that suit remote and home-based education.
So with the help of DepEd Region V and our partner, Thames International—who is represented here this morning by Dean Sheila—we’ve designed activities and live session lectures, where teachers can learn the basics of flexible learning, resource-based teaching strategies, and reimagined learning styles and teaching methods, to catch up with a new generation of learners. We made sure that every program is tailor-fit for teachers of all grade levels, and have grouped participants so that every batch is effectively managed. This is an opportunity to build a stronger community of educators, by working together with fellow teachers from different parts of the region. Si pondo po kani has already been earmarked by our Office, so our teachers don’t have to worry about fees and other overhead expenses anymore while going through their training. Si pondo po ida-download mi sa DepEd Region V.
All of this is very exciting for us, as I’m sure it is for our many partners. This project would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of officials like RD Gilbert and the rest of the DepEd Region V, our partner Thames International, and everyone’s passion for continued learning and value for education. Sobrang proud po ako na pilot mi digdi ang Region V. We are also planning to do this in some other regions needing this kind of training. Pero ugma ako na with modular learning, ining training for modular teaching, na inot ang Region V. And we hope to continue serving more in the days to come. Pagkatapos po kang semanang ini, we hope that we can share your stories with others, so that we can continue to refine our processes, scale up, and expand our reach.
Today’s launching of this teacher-training is just one component of our distance learning initiatives. Naistorya ko na saindo, kang siguro tag launch ng online training program, that our office has Bayanihan e-Skwela, addressing some of the most pressing needs that our learners and educators. Iniyo po, tigpupurbaran mi… tigpupurbaran mi na maasikaso ta si gabos na kinakaipuhan: from gadgets donation drive, to producing videos, to setting up community learning hubs, para ma-fill-in si gaps.
Pero samuya po, while filling in the gaps, igwa kaming mga recommendations. And ano si recommendations mi? Sana mas gulpi pang mga learning hubs ang malaag ta duman sa mga lugar na hararayo. At ta ano ta sa mga lugar na hararayo? Most probably iniyo si mga lugar na mayong Internet signal, kulang ang gamit, mayong mga magurang na magtukdo sa mga aki sa harong. So we aim to provide, to fill in that gap. Ito pong samuyang mga community learning hubs ngunyan, I think 12 is already opening, pero may iba pa kaming… ang Batch 2 mi are 32 learning hubs, tapos igwa pang masunod na 48 learning hubs. Pero we hope to be able to establish more. We already have several in the Bicol region na mapuon na po next week. I think nasambitan ko man last week, na we have been doing trainings with AHA! Learning [Center] and Habi [Education Lab], para po sa training kang mga tutors na ilalaag ta sa mga community learning hubs. Ini po will not take the place of teachers, pero sinda lang si matabang sa indo para maasikaso ini gabos.
Ako po I still continue to advocate, dawa po ang DepEd igwa nang statement about this, na definitely no face-to-face before a vaccine is developed. Pero ako, I continue to advocate for DepEd to explore conducting face-to-face classes in areas where there is no community transmission. Halimbawa po ang opisina mi, everyday, we crunch numbers. Digdiyo po sa Bicol, there are 42 towns… 42 towns na zero ang [active] cases, zero ang community transmission. Mayo pa diyan itong mga towns na padikit-dikit. Ta ano ta po ta pig-aadvocate ini si mga teachers pong naka-assign digdi sa hararayong lugar. I know that you will agree with me how difficult it will be kung modular, dahil hararayuon na maray si mga dudumanan, grabe si difficulty kang mga teachers, kadakol po ning challenges na maso-solve sana kung igwa ang face-to-face. Ang face-to-face pong pig-popropose mi, bako man iniyo sa dating normal. Sabi ko nga, ta ano ta da ingo na kita mag focus on the core competencies—reading, writing, math, science. At least two times a week, once a week, nami-meet ta si mga estudyante para naaalalayan lalo na si difficult learners.
Ang example ko po kayan, I think Teacher Windel Alvarez is here. Si Teacher Windel, satuyang finalist for the Global Teacher Prize. Nadumanan ko si saiyang area sa Sitio Lipata sa Caramoan dahil nag-build po ang partners ta duman ning eskwelahan. Sobrang rayo, in fact, sobra ang alon pa duman sa inda. Mayong kuryente ang entirong island. Pero dipisilun na maray magpirit ning modular. Magkaka igwa dumang problema sa printing pa lang kang si mga lessons, problem ana kaagad dahil mayo nga ning kuryente sa area. Sa hiling ko po, si Teacher Windel has been telling us na bako lang to si area niya. Igwa pa siyang mga area na nasa bukid. So sakuya po, garo very impractical na ipipirit na mayong face-to-face, na mayo man community transmission, mayo man threat… i-aadjust man si physical distancing. So even if DepEd has already announced, ako po I continue to advocate na sana hilingon. All over the country, there are… almost 500 towns with no community transmission at all. Digdi po kuta sa mga towns na ni, makakatipid kita sa printing kung itutugot na ang modified na face-to-face learning. So iyan si saro kong recommendation.
My third recommendation is continue to provide trainings like this for teachers, and for government to invest more in technology. Kasi while modular training is good for now, we need to modernize and prepare for digitization, dahil ini na po talaga si call for the times. According to a recent World Bank and NEDA study, the Philippines is lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbors when it comes to adopting digital technologies for business, governance, and education. And in terms of digital competitiveness, si Pilipinas po nagbaba pa sa ranking. Of 63 nations, pang 57 kita when it comes to using digital technologies for economic growth. So para po sakuya, dapat ang gobyerno should make sure that digital infrastructure is in place so that we can fully transition to online learning. Kasi madali lang pong sabihon na ma-transition kita, pero ang pinakahapot is the infrastructure there. Ngunyan ngani, sakit kitang maray sa signal, sakit kita maray sa gadget. So I think it will be a worthwhile investment kung habang nagmomodular kita, hilingun ta na transition lang ini, pero pinaghahandaan ta na si future. Because we really need to adapt, we need to speed up and w need to scale up because this is the future—and if we don’t act now, we could continue to fall behind, leaving our teachers and learners struggling. In the past few years, dai mo maray ang satuyang standing pag-abot sa education, because we don’t invest enough. Pero pag nabayaan pa kita ka ining wave kani, lalo pang magiging dakula ang problema.
[Gulpi pang maray an problema] saka mga kasimbagan. Kaipuhan po hanapan ta ning solusyon, kaipuhan tang hanapan ni kasimbagan ning mga problema. Dapat kaskas. My worry is baka dagos dagos na kitang mawalat kung dai ta makayanan na makahabol saka kun mapasala an satuyang mga desisyon. So ako po I have committed myself and our office to help in whatever way we can sa abot po sakuyang makakaya para makatabang. I hope you never get tired of trying also, of innovating, of being creative, of thinking out of the box, dahil iyo po ini an hinahangad sato kan pagkakataon. Na dai kita makuntento sa status quo, pirmi kitang naghahanap nin paagi to make the best better. Pero ako po I am very positive that with you around, with proper government support, malalampasan ta ini.
Sakuya po, nagpapasalamat lang ako. Nagpapasalamat po ako sa gabos na sakripisyo nindo. I know these are very trying times for DepEd, I know these are very trying times for teachers, and I wish I had more resources, I wish had more mandate, para matabangan ka mo. Pero what little we have, handang-handa po kaming pagianon an saindong dara-darang ngunyan.
Mabalos na maray. Happy Teachers Day ulit saindo gabos.
 PH lags in use of digital tech compared to neighbors: World Bank, NEDA study. Link: https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/10/05/20/ph-lags-in-use-of-digital-tech-compared-to-neighbors-world-bank-neda-study
 Philippines digital competitiveness ranking drops further. Link: https://www.philstar.com/business/2020/10/02/2046512/philippines-digital-competitiveness-ranking-drops-further/amp/