Senator Sherwin Gatchalian attributed Monday’s orderly opening of face-to-face classes to the pilot testing done in November last year wherein school principals, teachers, and superintendents were already given guidelines and exercises.
“So a lot of credit goes to our teachers, principals, and superintendents because they follow the protocols and they learned from their mistakes, especially during the height of the pandemic, and they managed to adjust this,” Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, said in his interview on ANC on Wednesday.
Gatchalian said he took time to visit several schools in his hometown, Valenzuela City, and monitored the resumption of face-to-face classes in the rest of the country. He described the first day of the resumption of in-person classes as “90 percent smooth,” generally peaceful, organized, and well prepared.
He, however, witnessed the overcrowding of classrooms, especially in urban areas, citing the migration of around 1.5 million senior high school students from private to public schools as one of the factors.
“We’re actually studying to file a bill to allow classrooms to be built more than four storeys because there’s a regulation that classrooms are only allowed up to four storeys because it’s very difficult for students to go up more than four storeys. But if you can put elevators, if we put other equipment to easily bring students up to the fifth floor and sixth floor, we can conserve land and we can build more that should be looked at in the urban areas,” Gatchalian said.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian agreed with Pasig City Representative Roman Romulo’s proposal to reduce subjects in Grades 1 to 3 but suggested increasing the number of hours for English and using the mother tongue as the medium of instruction.
“I believe that the Filipino can be bilingual, meaning from 50 minutes, increase it for two hours, Filipino increase it to two hours, and then use the mother tongue for Grades One to Grade Three,” he said.
Gatchalian said the reason why academicians are pushing for the use of the mother tongue is because of comprehension.
“Yes, it’s acquired naturally. But if you teach the child or teach the learner using the mother tongue, comprehension is faster. You also develop confidence and you also develop engagement,” the lawmaker said.
Gatchalian admitted that this proposal needs to be studied because of the diversity of Philippine languages, with areas even having three or four different dialects.
“Executing the mother tongue or implementing the mother tongue is not as simple because of our geographical complications. So my point of the matter is, that the mother tongue is [a science-based] approach. But we also need to study if this approach fits the Philippines because of our setting,” he added.
Department of Education spokesperson Michael Poa said Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte is also eyeing the use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction for English and Filipino subjects.
However, he said the matter is still subject to further discussions with experts. (PNA)