PH last to open classes in Southeast Asia

The Philippines is the last country in Southeast Asia to open classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Brunei, Timor-Leste, Laos, and Singapore opened schools in June; Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand opened in July; Cambodia opened in August; and Vietnam resumed classes in May and will open the new term in September.

Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones had earlier said that after the deferment of the Aug. 24 school opening, the Philippines may have become the last country to resume classes after the coronavirus struck early this year. “Tayo, perhaps, ang pinakahuli sa Southeast Asia (We are, perhaps, the last one in Southeast Asia),” she said.

School Year (SY) 2020-2021 was scheduled to open in June. However, DepEd decided to delay it for three months to prepare for the transition to distance or remote learning. On Aug. 14, DepEd announced that the school opening has been moved to Oct. 5 as directed by President Duterte.

Briones noted that as early as May, neighboring countries have resumed classes despite the pandemic. “We have the same situation, we’re all fighting COVID but many countries have opened schools,” Briones said.

Among Southeast Asian countries, Briones said that the Philippines and Cambodia have the same scheduled school opening. “We would have started classes like Cambodia if we pushed through our August schedule however, moving the schedule has given us more opportunities to face and address challenges that the public has been warning us about,” she said.

Briones noted that almost all countries in the world have opened schools and resumed classes mostly using remote or online learning.

“Kung sa buong mundo, iisa lang ang bansa na sa pagkakaalam namin ay next year pa magbubukas, ang Kenya (In the whole world, there’s only one country as far as we know that will open classes next year it is Kenya),” Briones said. “Kung magbubukas tayo next year, magiging classmate natin ang bansang Kenya na kaisa-isang bansa na naiiwan nagsasabi na next year pa sila magbubukas (If we are to open classes next year, we will be classmates with the country Kenya which is the only country that is being left behind saying they will open next year),” she added.

Amid calls for cancellation of classes and other challenges as the country transitions into distance learning, Briones echoed the call of the United Nations (UN) that “education has to be for all.”

“For us, in DepEd, our battlecry has been ‘education must continue’ because we cannot sacrifice the teaching, the learning of the students,” Briones said. “In spite of the pandemic, in spite of the downturn in economy which are the ‘twin challenges’ in education, we are moving forward because these are gradually being placed under control,” she added.