The guidelines for the gradual resumption of limited face-to-face classes at the tertiary level have been approved by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Health (DOH).
The joint memorandum circular – which outlines the process for higher education institutions (HEIs) that intend to hold limited face-to-face classes amid the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in the country – was approved by CHED chairman J. Prospero De Vera III and DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III.
In the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2021-001, CHED and DOH said that while flexible learning is “deemed the most appropriate and safest pedagogical approach during the pandemic, there might be some instances that face-to-face delivery of certain courses is necessary.”
CHED and DOH said that in preparation for such an eventuality, there is a need for universities and colleges “to put in place mitigating measures in their campuses to prevent their students, faculty and staff from infection or becoming spreaders of disease.”
In an effort to ensure this, CHED and DOH said that a “cautious and gradual” approach to reopening of campuses of HEIs should be taken “until safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are distributed or made available all to Filipino tertiary students.”
CHED and DOH noted that the priority for the gradual reopening of campuses for limited face-to-face classes will be be given to “selected health-related degree programs regarded as vital in providing additional manpower support in the health system” which include Medicine, Nursing, Medical Technology or Medical Laboratory Science, Physical Therapy, Midwifery and Public Health.
However, CHED and DOH noted that the subjects or courses under these priority programs shall be allowed for face-to-face delivery but will be “delimited to specialized laboratory courses or hospital-based clinical clerkship/internship/practicum, including clinical rotations for post-graduate medical interns.”
The list of degree programs and courses covered by the guidelines may also be “expanded” upon the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
As stated in the guidelines, CHED and DOH stressed that limited face-to-face classes are not “mandatory.” While it is within the discretion of HEIs to decide when they intend to conduct limited face-to-face classes, the HEIs may also “opt not to conduct” limited in-person classes and may continue to implement flexible learning.
CHED and DOH also noted the students who will be allowed to attend limited face-to-face classes are only those enrolled in degree programs and courses stated and those “aged 20 years old and above.”
These students should also be registered by their respective HEIs or health facilities with PhilHealth – or equivalent medical insurance – that will cover medical expenses related to COVID-19.
In the general guidelines, CHED and DOH also outlined the minimum public health standards, minimum physical distancing in HEIs set at 1.5 meters, prohibition of face-to-face extracurricular activities, application and evaluation procedures – among others.
Specific guidelines were also issued such as protocols of partners or base hospital and additional CHED guidelines on clerkship, internship, or practicum; self-assessment checklist or readiness of HEIs to reopen campus for limited face-to-face classes; establishment of a management committee; occupancy capacity and additional health and safety measures, among others.
Early this month, De Vera said that there are some HEIs that have already expressed their intention to hold limited face-to-face classes for their medicine and allied health programs.