As it welcomed the approval of limited face-to-face classes, a group of teachers and education workers urged the government to ensure safety of learners and teachers and the quality of learning during the pilot run.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on Monday, Sept. 20, said that the “overdue approval” of the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes in 100 public schools and 20 private schools in low risk areas is a “significant step towards improving the delivery of education amid the pandemic.”
Following relentless clamor from various education stakeholders, ACT said that the resumption of limited face-to-face classes is “direly needed” amidst grave learning loss and inaccessibility of distance learning to the youth who mostly belong to impoverished families.
But before the conduct of limited face-to-face classes pushes through, ACT called on the Duterte government to ensure that participating schools were able to “retrofit classrooms for safe limited face-to-face classes.” The schools, ACT said, should also have installed health facilities such as adequate comfort rooms, hand-washing facilities, school clinics, and others.
“Hire health and sanitation personnel,” ACT said. Thus, the group noted that conducting health check up and mass testing to all education workers and learners are needed before they participate in in-classroom learning.
Moreover, ACT said that the government must also provide free medical supplies and personal protective equipment and ensure safe mode of transportation.
ACT said that the authorities also need to ensure that health protocols such as reducing the class size to a maximum of 15 students, rotation of face-to-face class schedules, regular disinfection of school premises, practice of social distancing and wearing of face masks are implemented.
“Similarly, as these schools will implement blended modes of learning, the government must ensure that the needs of the different distance learning modalities employed in the locality are provided sufficiently and in a timely manner—the most basic and most widely used among these is the self-learning modules which should meet the standard of 1:1 student to module ratio,” ACT said.
The group added that the Department of Education (DepEd) and the rest of the Duterte government must “ensure that these needs are met in order for the two-month pilot run of limited face-to-face classes to be successful.”
ACT said that the results of which will allow the government to “complete its roadmap towards the eventual safe reopening of schools across the country while it simultaneously improves its medical and socio-economic responses” to the pandemic.
Based on the initial guidelines discussed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones during the press briefing of Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, public schools will need to pass a “readiness assessment” while private schools will be subjected to a joint validation of the DepEd and Department of Health (DOH).
“We reiterate our demand for a science-based and evidence-based risk assessment for all the participating schools,” ACT said.
“These shall help determine their present condition and urgent needs for the safe conduct of in-classroom learning, which the government shall immediately address,” the group added.