The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) clarified that the conduct of full face-to-face classes remains a possibility depending on the public health situation in the country.
During an online press conference on Monday, May 24, Chairman Popoy De Vera defended the policy of CHED to implement flexible learning even after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“According to them, I said that it was impossible to have face-to-face [classes], I never said said that,” De Vera said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In a webinar on May 21, De Vera said that flexible learning “will be the norm” and going back to the “traditional, full-packed face-to-face classrooms” may not be very ideal because “we run the risk of exposing our stakeholders to the same risks if another pandemic comes in.”
Recognizing that his statement has been “agitating” education stakeholders, De Vera clarified that in-person learning will resume once the COVID-19 situation in the country has improved.
“Will there be face-to-face [classes] in the future? It depends on the conditions on the ground,” he said.
“Eventually, if we achieve herd immunity, vaccinated na 70 percent [of the population], then we will allow the schools to slowly bring back the students but it will not be anymore in the old traditional type, that is what I meant,” he added.
De Vera explained that there are programs where face-to-face learning remains inevitable such medical and allied health programs. “You cannot dissect, you can’t stitch the wound of the patient or for dentists, you cannot extract a tooth by watching it online,” he noted.
Since January this year, De Vera said that 64 higher education institutions (HEIs) have been allowed to hold limited face-to-face classes for skills-based concepts.
“Now, if this works in medical and allied health, if the data on the ground says the students are not getting infected, I will now go to the President to recommend the next batch – Engineering, Information Technology, Maritime Programs, Industrial Tech,” De Vera said. “If the evidence on the ground says so, we have to do evidence-based decision making,” he added.
Should face-to-face classes be allowed to resume, De Vera underscored the need to retrofit the schools, especially the facilities such as the cafeteria, library and others. Campuses, he added, should have directional signs and good air flow.
“We also have to make sure hand-washing becomes a practice of every student – so that if the students come back, we assure everyone they are safe,” De Vera said. “Government will not allow this if the health of the students, the faculty and administration in these schools are not assured,” he added.
De Vera said that full face-to-face classrooms in retrofitted campuses might be allowed to resume in future depending on the current conditions. “We have to make sure our facilities are COVID-resilient and if that is the case, we will allow face-to-face, that is the policy of the government,” he explained.
He added that even the best countries worldwide- which opened their schools – have closed these because of the detection of new coronavirus variants. “In the Philippines, we’re looking at how things are developing because the variants can come in,” he said.