As soon as it receives a go-signal from the authorities, the Department of Education (DepEd) expressed its readiness to resume the conduct of limited face-to-face classes at the basic education level.
Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio told the Manila Bulletin that despite the implementation of distance learning this school year, DepEd has been preparing for the eventual resumption of physical classes.
“We’re waiting for the approval coming from the concerned agencies like the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force] and the DOH [Department of Health] before we resume limited face-to-face classes,” San Antonio said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Schools under DepEd, he added, were also informed to prepare for the possible implementation of physical classes once this has been allowed by the President and other concerned agencies.
On Monday, Feb. 8, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian once again pushed for the resumption of face-to-face classes citing that such set-up will be helpful for children.
Gatchalian also urged DepEd and the IATF to study the January 2021 journal article published by experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC, a national public health institute under the United States Department of Health, said that there is “little evidence” that having physical schooling increased community transmission of the coronavirus.
In its Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) released in May last year, the implementation of limited face-to-face classes was included among the learning delivery modalities for school year (SY) 2020-2021.
However, DepEd excluded this option after President Duterte announced during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July that there will be no face-to-face learning “until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.”
Last December, DepEd recommended to the President to allow the conduct of pilot implementation or dry-run of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas on a “limited scale” and “under strict health and safety measures.”
DepEd said that this is because face-to-face classes “remain a necessity for education” especially the “social aspect of learning where students are able to interact with their teachers and classmates cannot be fully replaced by distance learning modalities.”
The recommendation of DepEd – which was supposed to be conducted in January – was initially approved by the President. However, he recalled his decision amid the threat of the new coronavirus variant.
As the government prepares for the roll out of its COVID-19 vaccination program in the coming months, San Antonio said that DepEd is also waiting for the approval from the government – particularly from the President himself.
“We recognize that there are challenges in distance learning as well as the need for face-to-face learning especially for students, for example, in tech-voc courses where hands-on training is very important,” San Antonio said.
“At this time, we adhere to the directive of the President and we will wait for the approval of IATF and DOH for everyone’s safety,” he added.