Revisiting DepEd TV

OH BOY, the country’s public school system begins its school year this Monday (September 13); it will be another school year without face-to-face interaction as COVID-19 continues to spread violently with various variants while our vaccination efforts lag. (The rest of the world is resuming face-to-face instructions with minimum health and safety protocols in place save Venezuela and us.)

Last year, parents and teachers were concerned about their children’s ability to continue their education in the face of the pandemic, as Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones desired. Furthermore, due to the President’s premeditated and petty motive, access to the most popular educational TV channel in the country was lost or limited because the company that made that channel lost its broadcast franchise.

At last, a solution was found; DepEd TV was born. 

In this blog post, we will revisit the state-sanctioned distance learning program: What went right? What went wrong? Are there any localized options?

At a glance

DepEd TV was formally launched on October 5, 2020, as a blended learning program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced nationwide school closures. It was supposed to air on August 24, 2020, but during the test broadcasts leading up to that date, some of the lessons were incorrect, some of the assessment construction went off the rails, and some of the catchphrases were lifted from well-known commercial networks rather than being created from scratch.

During the extra six weeks, they were given training and consultation to teacher-broadcasters from Paolo Bediones and other prominent TV personalities (including Mother Ignacia).

The Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and Solar Entertainment Corporation were the first media companies to participate in this new venture, bringing value to both their airtime and reputation from being tagged as “has-beens” and “nobodies.”

Currently, the core distance learning program block is aired from Mondays to Saturdays, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. 

While IBC kept it intact, Solar Entertainment through Solar Learning added a separate Alternative Learning Systems (ALS) feed and as of the moment, they’re testing a separate feed for Kinder to Grade 3 lessons before this first day of distance schooling.

Blending in

This year, Broadcast Enterprises and Affiliated Media, Inc. (BEAM) and GMA Network decided to hop in with the two. 

BEAM’s primary digital channel 31.1 is a peregrine promotional channel; they have no idea what they’re destined to be, but they’ll try anything. They get some of their airtime that the defunct Inquirer 990 TV once stood. INQ 990 TV went off the air — like its AM radio DZIQ — after the parent company (Trans Radio Broadcasting Corporation) lost its legislative license last year, just like Mother Ignacia’s.

The Timog Avenue variant

For GMA Network, leasing one digital subchannel from their legal frequency was initially seen as a generous gesture to encourage a better reach but at the same time, a way to encourage sales of their branded digital TV receiver, the GMA Affordabox, as part of the transition to digital terrestrial television to be completed nationwide in 2023.

While the core distance learning programs were retained, their iteration extended its program load until 10:30 p.m. After class hours, they air special episodes of their magical anthology program Daig Kayo ng Lola Ko. During that publication date (July 28), NCAA 96 was underway and they aired their stories behind the athletes at 7:30 p.m. Other prominent GMA Public Affairs programs were served on their final hour at 9:30 p.m. except on Friday where a Taiwanese variety show, Mr. Player, was aired; Film 101 takes the place on Sundays.

Right now, the after-school hours’ block in the evening is more on movies (as far as I recently observed).

There was a scoop (that was confirmed just last Monday) that a K-Drama would be airing there immediately after the prescribed learning hours, which has been viewed as a most bizarre move. One might typically and furiously ask and suggest: “What is the connection between that K-Drama on an educational channel? I mean, Ilustrado (a 2014 teleserye starring Alden Richards), on the other hand, would be acceptable because it depicts Jose Rizal’s life.”

Indeed, GMA has other substantial educational programs broadcast on the mother channel like Aha!, iBilib, Amazing Earth and Born to Be Wild. In case they missed a fresh episode, they could’ve been placed on Monday to Saturday evenings and the next Sunday as a “catchup period.” Since last year, GMA made original educational content for Pinoy TV subscribers called Pinoy Aklatan; this could be carried back at home to take a unique flavor.

Learning remotely may be fun, paying earnestly is not

While the production value of DepEd TV video lessons enticed some learners, a part of the production staff was drawn from Mother Ignacia’s long-serving employees. It’s a win-win situation, right? 

Before the end of the year, there was a complaint in a tabloid against Bediones on unpaid wages but it didn’t gain attention until March 2, 2021, when Buhay Media expended a litany of grievances with threatening messages and policy changes.

While the distance learning program could be revamped thanks to a part of the P 757-million pledge from Canada, a now-deleted Facebook post detailed how they still haven’t got paid for half a year and persuaded their colleagues not to join them. This was later denied by Bediones and DepEd.

The Verdict

Amidst the woes, we surveyed how DepEd TV fared on the week after the previous school year (July 12-18, 2021). Here’s their scorecard of criteria:

CriteriaVery satisfied (5)Satisfied (4)Neither (3)Dissatisfied (2)Very dissatisfied (1)Average Rating

In comparison to the fallen but still good commercial counterpart, exactly half of the respondents said they met the standards; one-third said the commercial one was better than DepEd TV, and one-sixth said the opposite.

In terms of retention, 55 percent of respondents wanted DepEd TV to stay on IBC 13 and will do so under the leadership of Hexilon Alvarez (the son of former Senator Heherson Alvarez, one of the first casualties to COVID) — the network’s newly appointed head honcho. 

While that channel may be unavailable at certain times of the year and in most areas around the country, PTV’s digital TV signal has been steadily increasing in the Metro this year. After a few scans where I’m now in Pampanga, I was unable to capture their digital signals on one of my digital boxes but it can be reached in the south as Cavite. Nonetheless, we asked you if Channel 4 should allocate their digital subchannel similar to GMA and Solar; three-quarters agreed to it to avoid appearing as a pure pro-government mouthpiece, as it is now.

Regional iterations

Many students do not have access to DepEd TV (either on TV or online), some parents are concerned about the lenient quality control of their content and some educators are concerned with the centralization of the distance learning program that they feel is not in touch with their communities.

Fear not, some regions have found a way to do things their way as long as they follow the curriculum guidelines; the sanctions imposed by the regional office are a plus.

One of the best examples occurs in my home region, Region III (Central Luzon). 

With approval from the DepEd City of San Fernando (Pampanga) Schools Division, CLTV, a regional commercial TV channel, has broadcast a slew of K-12 educational series dubbed Telekswela; FerNanDino Kids TV (for Kinder), Super K Teleskwela (for Grades 3 and up), FerNanDino Teens TV (for Junior High School), and Fernandino Senior High Live (for obvious reasons) are a few of them under their umbrella (if not all).

In your area, do you have a regional version of distance learning programs? Don’t be shy about sharing it in the comments section (or on Discord).

Is it worth it?

Was it worth it to watch DepEd TV? Well, it did, and it was better than nothing. It is their responsibility to learn from their mistakes from last year and try to correct them — continuous improvement — before the school bell rings (metaphorically).

Remember, dear kids! Always pay attention to your teachers (whether on TV or the screen), complete your modules diligently and take some necessary rest when needed. May you have a happy and safe school year.

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Discuss this here or on Discord.

Photo courtesy of Fandom / Department of Education


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