To address the impact of prolonged school closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a bill that seeks to give struggling learners access to a free national remedial program, which includes well-systematized tutorial sessions.
Under Senate Bill No. 2355, the program will be known as the Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Program. Intended beneficiaries are those who did not enroll in School Year 2020-2021, those who are lagging academically, and those who are at and marginally above the minimum level of mastery required in Language, Mathematics, and Science. The ARAL Program shall cover the most essential learning competencies under Language and Mathematics for Grades 1 to 10, and Science for Grades 3 to 10.
Reading, which is included in the most essential learning competencies in Language, shall be prioritized to develop the critical and analytical thinking skills of learners. The program also aims to build on the foundational skills of Kindergarten learners to strengthen their literacy and numeracy competencies.
The tutorial sessions shall be undertaken via face-to-face, online, or blended learning. They may be held on weekends during the school year or semestral breaks.
The program’s tutors are teachers and para-teachers who shall be provided with proper remuneration for their services. Tertiary level students who meet certain criteria can volunteer as tutors. These volunteer tutors have to pass a mock tutoring session administered by the Department of Education (DepEd). Their services for two semesters shall be deemed as completion of the Literacy Training Service under the National Service Training Program (NSTP).
The DepEd, in collaboration with the local government unit, shall provide a safe learning environment for face-to-face tutorials by investing in hygiene facilities and supplies, and enforcing safety health protocols.
The proposed measure will also mandate Public Telecommunication Entities (PTEs) to provide learners and tutors free access to the DepEd’s online educational platforms, digital libraries, and other online knowledge hubs.
“Sa pamamagitan ng isinusulong nating ARAL Program, maiiwasan natin ang pag-urong ng kaalaman ng mga mag-aaral at matutulungan natin silang makahabol sa kanilang pag-aaral. Ito ay magiging bahagi ng pagbangon ng sektor ng edukasyon mula sa pinsalang dulot ng pandemya,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
The ARAL Program also seeks the adequate provision of nutritional, social, emotional, and mental health support to learners. It also eyes mass awareness campaigns to encourage learners to return to school. Among the strategies to be used in the re-enrollment campaign are flexible enrollment dates, continuous implementation of school feeding programs, installation of sanitation and hygiene facilities, and enforcement of public health protocols.