Jul 242013
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday clarified that a recent order requesting Filipino Muslim teachers to remove their face veil inside the classroom applies only to Arabic language instructors.

Although some reacted to the order vehemently, some Muslim teachers welcomed the order, saying that having the students see their face is particularly important in language class, and is especially effective when teaching younger students.

“What the order actually states is that teachers handling Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) are requested to remove the veil covering the face (niqab) when teaching in the classroom,” Education Secretary Armin Luistro said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This is to promote better teacher-pupil relationship and to support effective language teaching since seeing the teacher’s lips helps in the correct production of letter sounds,” he noted.

Luistro is referring to DepEd Order no. 32 series of 2013, which reiterates DECS order No. 53, series of 2001 or Strengthening the Protection of Religious Rights of Students.

An Agence France-Presse report on Tuesday said that Muslim teachers were told to remove their veil during lessons. However, the report failed to mention that the order was only referring to the full-face veil, and only applies to those teaching the Arabic language.

The order states that wearing a veil covering the entire face is allowed outside the classroom, but that it is “strongly suggested” that the veil be removed or partially removed (the detachable mouth and nose cover) during classes so that students can see the teacher’s mouth.

Already being done even before the order

“[The order] is not a problem. Paano magbibigay ng instruction kung hindi kita ang lips. Iisipin ng bata, ano ‘yan, puppet o silhouette? Ano ba ang itsura ni Ma’am?” Amanah Integrated School teacher Cecille, who did not wish to give her full name, told GMA News Online in a phone interview.

She explained that it is important for young students, especially the ones in kindergarten, to see the teacher’s facial expressions. Cecille added that she did not think that the order is discriminating against Muslim teachers.

“Sa aking pananaw, mas gusto ko ‘yun [order] kasi mas effective [sa pagtuturo pag nakikita ang mukha] pero hindi ko pinapangunahan yung iba,” she added.

Even before the DepEd order, said Sultan Ismael Elementary School teacher Ominta Lantud, it has already been the practice of some teachers who wear the niqab to remove the part of their veil that covers the nose and mouth so that students can see their whole face.

“May isang ALIVE teacher dito sa amin na naka-niqab pero tinatanggal niya para makita ang mukha niya,” she told GMA News Online in a separate phone interview.

“Mahirap sa estudyante pag mata lang ang nakikita. Maaaring walang makinig sa kanya [guro],” Lantud added.

Both teachers said very few of their Muslim women colleagues wear a full-face veil, with most simply wearing the traditional head veil covering the hair, which is not covered by the DepEd order.

Respect for rights of Muslim students

The DepEd order also stresses the religious rights of Muslim students including the following policies:

  • Female Muslim schoolchildren are allowed to use their veils inside campus.
  • Muslim girls are allowed to wear appropriate clothing in Physical Education classes in accordance with their religious belief.
  • Muslim students shall not be required to participate in non-Muslim religious rites. — BM, GMA News

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