DepEd: Multigrade classes to answer Education for All

Will a teacher not hold class if there are just a few enrollees? Should a student drop out if the school is far from home or there is not enough teachers and classroom?
If you ask the Department of Education (DepEd), the answer is no because it continues to find ways to bring children to school in order to complete their basic education.
One of these is the holding of multigrade classes. A multigrade class consists of two or more different grade levels inside a single-grade classroom handled by one teacher for an entire school year. It is offered in elementary schools located in distant and sparsely populated localities.
Figures from DepEd show that there are close to a million enrollees in multigrade classes across the country.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said most of the students attending multigrade classes are learners who belong to isolated and financially challenged communities, are indigenous peoples, and reside in far-flung mountains and islands where schools are far apart from each other. “This is part of our thrust to democratize access to education and make the learning experience inclusive to as many sectors. In effect, we are bringing more students to school,” he added.
“If a class does not meet the required number of enrollees and therefore it is not viable to conduct a class of limited number of pupils, the supposed enrollees are merged into a single class and taught by one teacher,” Luistro explained.
The small number of students for each grade level, the shortage of teachers, the distance from the community to the nearest school, and the inadequacy of funds and classrooms are reasons that necessitate the organization of multigrade classes.
In the Philippine public school system, classes with two grade levels inside a single classroom and handled by the same teacher are called combination classes. Classes with three grade levels conducted in one classroom and handled by a single teacher are called a multigrade or multilevel class.
This means that children with different skills and abilities, developmental levels, and needs are mixed in a class and work together under the guidance of one teacher. “The truth is, long before multitasking became a buzzword, our teachers were actually already living up to the word,” Luistro said.
Although the DepEd has always recognized the existence of multigrade classes, it was only in 1990 that the department started to consider the formal organization and continuing operation of multigrade classrooms all over the country in keeping with the goal of Education For All.
Thus, the DepEd continues to invest in teachers’ training, curriculum development, and preparation of learning materials appropriate for multigrade classes to improve elementary education especially in underserved and remote areas.