Great uncertainty over opening of schools

Published July 13, 2020, 10:51 PM

by Manila Bulletin

There is great concern in the United States today over the opening of the school year in September, with coronavirus cases still rising in many parts of the country. It is not merely a health issue; it is a key part of the nation’s economic recovery. Most parents in the US won’t be able to go back to work if their children are still home, but they will not be comfortable putting their children at risk.

US officials might see what they can learn from the Philippines which is scheduled to reopen its public schools this August, two months later than our usual opening day in June. Our public school system – which provides for free public elementary education for all children – was, after all, established by the Americans, patterned after their own system.

When we open our public schools this August, there are plans for some classes to be conducted online, but millions of children in the provinces may not be reached by this system. There will be some regular classrooms, but with widely spaced seats, along with several other requirements.

After the first few days of school, some problems may emerge. Perhaps the pupils’ seats were not separated far enough. Perhaps, not all were wearing face masks at all times. Perhaps the chllden, as they usually do, mingled in the halls and in the playground at recess time and in between classes. Perhaps there was no doctor to supervise all the health services, such as the taking of each student’s temperature.

American homes and American students are probably better prepared than Filipino homes and Filipino students for the changes that need to be made. Still the US and other countries planning to reopen their schools this September may be able to learn from our experience in the Philippines this August.

Enrollment in the Philippine schools reached 60 percent of the nation’s 27.7 million students at the end of the scheduled period last June 30. The figure is expected to exceed 80 percent by the end of the extended period of enrollment tomorrow, July 15.

It seems many Filipino parents are opting to keep their children home safe, rather than expose them to the uncertainties of classrooms while the coronavirus epidemic continues. This point too might be of interest to American officials looking at schools around the world as they prepare to open their own this September.