Education Secretary Leonor Briones has withdrawn the request of the Department of Education (DepEd) for the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes for students at the basic education level.
This after President Duterte, in a pre-recorded televised address on Monday night, June 21, rejected the proposal. “I think I am not inclined to agree with you. I am sorry but mahirap (it’s hard), I cannot gamble on the health of the children, I hope you understand,” he told Briones.
As a response, Briones said that the DepEd respects the decision of the President. “We are withdrawing our request in the light of your decision and we fully accept your decision. It is a very well-informed decision if I may say so,” she added.
Briones said that were two basis for the DepEd position on the matter of opening of classes and the conduct of face-to-face classes. “One which we consider heavily is the impact on the economy because education and the economy are closely linked,” she said.
She also brought up the “legal basis” for the opening of classes and all other activities. In 2020, Briones mentioned that a law was passed wherein it is the President – upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education – who “will decide on the matter of opening up classes” and other related activities.
However, Briones noted that DepEd is also taking into consideration the health of children and teachers. “We’re talking about 27 million children and 847,000 teachers – that is where we agreed with you even as the public strongly excoriated and criticized the Department of Education,” she added.
Briones explained that DepEd has been preparing for the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes “just in case if things get better, if the numbers are flattened.”
DepEd, Briones mentioned, has identified 1,900 schools which might qualify for the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes. “We kept on bringing it down and now, even a hundred but listening to the briefing and listening to your decision, we don’t have any reservations because we all know the effects,” she added.
Briones said that DepEd also continues to monitor the developments related to COVID-19 especially the detection of new variants.
“We would not, in any way, oppose the matters of law, the matter of health and the dangers that are posted to our 27 million children [because] it is not within our line of expertise,” Briones said.
Briones said that DepEd’s policies and decisions related to school opening are based on the “professional knowledge” of the health people and guided by the “wisdom” of the President.
After hearing the President’s response to the issue, Briones said that “there is really no problem” as she was hoping for support for DepEd’s Learning Continuity Program.
DepEd, Briones said, would also not want to risk the health of millions of students especially as studies suggest that children might be more prone and “perhaps are vulnerable” to contracting the virus.
Briones added that since DepEd is part of the Executive, “what the Executive decides, we support and we cooperate especially on professional matters.”