The Philippine Department of Education launches first virtual graduation-in-a-box program, #Hello2020Graduates

Teachers from Panabo City Senior High School conduct a virtual graduation ceremony for their students

Teachers Armando Oliva Aguilon Jr. and Mildred Villafuerte Ulan host
Panabo City Senior High School’s virtual graduation ceremony

Through Microsoft 365, DepEd enables schools nationwide to
hold commencement ceremonies during COVID-19

27 May 2020, MANILA, Philippines⁠—In response to the government’s community quarantine restriction across the country and the indefinite suspension of schools across all levels, the Department of Education (DepEd) partnered with Microsoft to enact the #Hello2020Graduates program, a virtual ‘graduation-in-a-box’ solution powered by Microsoft 365.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown, the Department of Education (DepEd) has worked to ensure students retain access to learning and education as well as keep the academic experience as much as possible—including its milestones. As a result, #Hello2020Graduates was launched last week, on May 13, 2020.

Powered by Microsoft’s unified communication and collaboration platform, Microsoft 365, #Hello2020Graduates gives schools access to innovative Office webapps, intelligent cloud services and world-class security. Through Microsoft Teams, schools are able to host the graduation ceremonies through the Teams’ Live Event feature that allows a maximum of 10,000 users to watch the ceremony anywhere in the world — allowing the students’ family members who are abroad, or in other parts of the Philippines, to participate. #Hello2020Graduates is easily deployable, requiring minimum internet connectivity and comes with a DepEd-approved technical guide and manual, which follows the standard graduation flow including the marching of students, the delivery of honor students’ speeches, and even special DepEd representatives and school administrators’ farewell addresses.

Available to all public and private schools from the 17 Regions of the Philippines, the program was first adopted by Region 11, on May 13, 2020.

Three schools were involved in the pilot run, Ruparan National High School in Digos City, Cornelio Reta Sr. Elementary School in Davao City and Panabo City Senior High School in Panabo City. A total of 631 students participated in the pilot ceremonies. Since then, five more schools held their virtual graduations in Region 11, giving another 831 students the opportunity to celebrate their commencements. All in all, 1,462 students from 8 schools in Region 11.

“Students, parents and their teachers deserve this celebration, not only to culminate their efforts from the past school year, but to prepare them for what comes next. This is a first in the Philippines and Region 11 is proud to have provided precedence for other schools and Regions in the country to follow,” said Regional Director Evelyn Fetalvero.

“Graduation from any educational level is more than just another step in the journey, it’s a recognition of achievements, hard work and more importantly, it is a symbol of hope,” said Usec. Alain Del B. Pascua. “In this challenging time, the importance of celebrations like this are greater than ever. Through this, we want to not only show that these milestones can be celebrated safely, but that they should.”

The Department of Education and Microsoft have worked closely throughout the last three months in a joint effort to enable collaboration and remote learning for schools nationwide. Today, Microsoft Teams connects the 17 Regional offices nationwide to proactively identify and address issues and opportunities concerning teachers and learners.

“The future of the Philippines lies in the hands of the brilliant young minds sitting in its classrooms today and we are privileged to empower not just their learning experience, but also their future. We’re so humbled to be part of this great initiative,” said Microsoft Philippines Country General Manager Andres Ortola. “Secretary Briones, Usec. Pascua and the Department of Education have worked throughout this challenging time to ensure students all over the country retain access to learning and enrichment. Now, they get a chance to celebrate this great and important occasion not just in their academic pursuits but in their lives as whole. We’re excited to see more schools activated with this initiative in the coming months.”