Tolentino pushes 'limited' face-to-face classes in low-risk island provinces

Senator Francis Tolentino on Tuesday, July 20, joined the calls for the resumption of face-to-face classes for the upcoming school year, starting in areas of the country that are low-risk for COVID-19.

Among the challenges under distance learning is the lack of gadgets and internet connection. (MANNY LLANES / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, Tolentino said that since some teachers have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the national government should look into the possibility of gradually allowing face-to-face classes.

He cited for instance the island provinces of Guimaras, Biliran, Batanes, and Camiguin, saying limited face-to-face classes should be allowed in such areas, while still complying with existing minimum health protocols.

“It should not be a total 'online-hybrid' modality...It won’t work, it never works,” Tolentino said, referring to the blended learning program being implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd) amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And while the World Bank apologized for inadvertently releasing its report showing the poor learning outcomes of Filipino children, Tolentino said he agrees that the "learning accumulation of the pupils really went down considering the questionable effectiveness of distance learning."

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, in a separate television interview, also expressed hope that the government will soon allow limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

"DepEd has been preparing for this for quite some time already, and I've seen the protocols that they have put in place. However, the actual pilot schools is not yet. And precisely because of the very uncertain situation," Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate basic education committee, told One News.

"I'm still hoping that the situation will get better by the time, and if it gets better, we can launch few pilot schools using face-to-face or going back to face-to-face, in those areas," he said.

President Duterte has stood pat against the resumption of limited physical classes in schools, previously saying that he will only allow it if vaccines are widely available in the country. He reiterated this position last month, noting the threat of the Delta coronavirus variant.

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones earlier announced that school year 2021-2022 will start on September 13.