Gatchalian: students’ mental health one reason behind pilot testing of face-to-face learning

Published March 4, 2021, 3:40 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

As the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian pressed the Department of Education (DepEd) and other agencies to consider the mental health issues students experience for being coop too long in their houses during distance learning.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

Gatchalian said addressing the students’ mental health is also one of the reasons why lawmakers are bent on pushing for the pilot testing of a limited face-to-face classes despite the ongoing health crisis.

The senator pointed out that even pediatric psychiatrists, who participated in the Senate Basic Education, Arts and Culture’s hearing on the proposal on Wednesday, March 3, have pointed to the necessity of addressing the mental health needs of learners.

“From what we gather from their feedback, mental health has a huge impact. You can’t prevent children from going out of their homes for a very long time. Even if they are studying, they can’t forever stay inside their houses,” Gatchalian said in Filipino in an interview on DZMM Teleradyo.

“Part of their growth and development is to socialize and interact with their peers. So it’s important that they engage in social interactions,” the senator stressed.

Aside from learning Mathematics, Science and other important subjects, Gatchalian said it is important to develop a student’s communication and socio-emotional skills aside from their physical development.

“Sabi nga ng isang eksperto…baka nga matalino siya pero hindi naman siya marunong makipag-usap at hindi siya marunong makihalubilo sa ibang bata (As one expert said a child may grow up knowledgeable but do not know how to talk or do not know how to interact with other children),” he said.

“Importante yun. Gusto natin kumpleto ang development ng bata at ito ngayon ang nagiging negative impact ng mahabang pagsasara ng ating eskwelahan (That’s also important. We want to ensure a child’s development is complete and the protracted closure of our schools is making a negative impact on these kids),” he added.

The Senate earlier adopted Senate Resolution No. 663 “expressing the sense of the Senate” to recommend the resumption of physical classes “through the immediate launch of the pilot testing of localized, limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas” that would be identified by the DepEd under risk-based assessment.

The Senate resolution primarily seeks the resumption of face-to-face classes in areas with “few to zero” COVID-19 cases in order to “avert a prolonged learning loss.” Twice, Education Secretary Leonor Briones proposed last year the partial reopening of schools and limited face-to-face in-person classes after noting that students have been missing physical classes and learning in actual schools.

President Duterte initially approved but retracted his approval due to the threat of a new coronavirus variant detected in the United Kingdom (UK). He denied the proposal again in favor of waiting for the full implementation of the government’s vaccination program first.

Duterte allowed, in January 2021, the resumption of limited face-to-face classes but only for medical and allied health programs in institutions located in general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ areas.