Approval of pilot in-person classes a ‘victory’ for Filipino learners, group says

Published September 21, 2021, 10:05 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

A “welcome victory” for a country of more than 28 million learners.

This is how a coalition of parents, students, health and education stakeholders described the gradual reopening of schools in areas with low coronavirus disease (COVID-19) transmission.

For Aral Pilipinas, the decision of the government to pilot limited face-to-face classes is a welcome development as millions of Filipino learners are “now facing a myriad of worsening economic and learning outcomes.”

“The approval of the pilot limited face-to-face classes is a victory for Filipino learners and a step in bringing their education back on track,” said Aral Pilipinas lead convenor Regina Sibal.

With this move, Sibal said that the country can “now slowly address the negative impacts of prolonged school closures to learners, more importantly those families in poorer and rural communities who understand the risks of sending their children back to classrooms.”

On Sept. 20, President Duterte finally approved the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in low risk areas which the Department of Education (DepEd) has been proposing since last year.

The coalition has also been resolute in calling for the safe and immediate reopening of schools. This pilot study, Sibal said, will allow the authorities “to assess the prospects of conducting a phased resumption of in-person teaching” in municipalities which have zero to minimal COVID-19 cases and with households who consent to face-to-face classes.

The network of education practitioners, parents, students, and development workers — who advocate for the continuity of education in times of crisis — said that the Philippines “has one of the world’s longest school closures due to the global pandemic.”

Citing the “Survey on Learning Experience during the Pandemic” conducted by the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid, and Aral Pilipinas, the group pointed out that an 87 percent of parents have expressed willingness for a safe return to classrooms after their children learned nothing from a year of modular or online learning.

After the go signal for this pilot study was set, Aral Pilipinas said that the challenge that country collectively has to face is to keep the Filipino learners’ welfare at the forefront of policies.

“We and other stakeholders remain committed in sharing the responsibility with the government to keep our children healthy and ensure that no student is left behind amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sibal added.