PASIG CITY, June 19, 2020 – True to their mission of ensuring that learning must continue, Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, together with other Southeast Asian education ministers, presented their different education strategies in response to the COVID-19 global crisis during the first South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Ministerial Policy e-Forum held last Thursday, June 18.

With the theme, “Education in a Post-COVID-19 World”, the first SEAMEO e-forum provided a platform for education leaders and experts to share their knowledge and solutions on how to manage the effects of COVID-19 to the education landscape in Southeast Asia.

Secretary Briones and the education ministers from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Timor-Leste, Thailand, and Vietnam, shared their education frameworks and innovations to frame the new normal in education and laid out their preparations for the opening of classes within their respective countries. Like the Philippines, other Southeast Asian countries have also adopted modular systems to deliver education while prioritizing the safety of the learners.

Singapore, who ranked second in all subjects among 78 countries in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), has continued to operate their schools amid the pandemic and is now starting their third term of classes.

“I think the basic choice before us is this – COVID-19 will be with us for some time, a year, and likely longer, until a vaccine is found. We cannot afford to keep schools closed for such a long time. It has a significant long-term impact on our children. It inflicts a tremendous social and human cost. Studies have shown that it can set students back for many years, even into adulthood. So we must try our best to save the school year, this and the next one, by keeping schools open but safe,” Singapore education minister Ong Ye Kung stated in his speech.

Minister Ong also mentioned that despite the challenges the education sector is facing, there were good things that came out from non-face to face strategies.

“It has been a tough period for every school system in the world. But there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. School systems in many countries have had to adjust to blended forms of learning in response to the pandemic, using the Internet, TV and even radio, as alternate platforms for students to gain access to education resources.”

The ministers also adopted a joint statement in the historic first ministerial e-forum as they shared progress made in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and appreciated the efforts made by the educators and education stakeholders in member countries to ensure that no Southeast Asian learner is left behind especially in these unprecedented times.

No Filipino learner will be left behind amidst the crisis

As part of the Philippines’ short and long term strategies, Secretary Briones introduced the BE-LCP as a guideline for the department on how to deliver education in time of the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of all learners, teachers and personnel of DepEd.

“The first principle that we adhered to and which we are committed to, in compliance with the President’s directive is to protect the safety, health and well-being of our learners, teachers and personnel and to prevent further transmission of COVID-19. But at the same time, we want to ensure learning continuity. Our battle cry is learning must continue,” Briones said in the forum.

Another main feature of BE-LCP is the adoption of multiple learning delivery modalities, with blended learning and distance learning as major options.

Briones emphasized that online learning is only one option from the menu of learning modalities. These modalities will be offered appropriately depending on the situation of the learners’ households.

“We have come out with a variety, with menu of options, online is not the only answer, there’s a huge debate in the Philippines on how useful or whether it is really a good way of teaching learners, so we have online, we have televisions, we have radio. If all else fails, then learning modules are being printed so that these will be delivered in various pick-up points or either parents or for the village officials to distribute to the learners,” she said.