A total of 181 universities and colleges nationwide catering to 21,000 students are currently holding limited face-to-face classes, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Monday, Oct. 11, said.
CHED Chairman Popoy De Vera, in a virtual press briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, said that the conduct of limited face-to-face classes started early this year for students taking up medicine and allied health sciences.
“We started limited face-to-face classes with medicine and allied health sciences in 11 degree programs since January this year after the President gave his approval,” De Vera said in a mix of English and Filipino.
To date, De Vera said that CHED together with the Department of Health (DOH) and local government units (LGUs) jointly inspected 181 universities and colleges.
“Of the 181, the total number of 301 degree programs have been allowed to reopen as of the last couple of weeks,” De Vera said.
De Vera said that there are 21,000 students and more than 1,000 faculty members in the 181 higher education institutions (HEIs) that have been allowed to conduct limited face-to-face classes in select degree programs.
“The good news is, in the previous months, the number of infection rates reported to us is very low — less than once percent among students and less than 1.41 percent among faculty members attending face-to-face classes were infected by COVID,” De Vera stressed.
All the students and faculty members who contracted COVID-19 were asymptomatic, De Vera said. “Walang namatay, walang na-ospital (No one died, no one was hospitalized),” he added.
De Vera said that the low infection rate showed that the guidelines issued by CHED and DOH were “strict and effective” because students and faculty members who attend limited face-to-face classes remained safe and protected.
In July 2020, De Vera proposed to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) the need to allow HEIs that offer medicine and allied health sciences to hold limited face-to-face classes despite the pandemic.
De Vera said that there were two major reasons behind the proposal. First is to enable students to achieve key learning outcomes on specialized laboratory courses and hospital-based clinical clerkship/internship/practicum and second is to provide “back-up” or additional manpower to hospitals.
In January 2021, President Duterte finally approved the proposal for limited face-to-face classes in Medicine, Nursing, Medical Technology/Medical Laboratory Science, Physical Therapy, Midwifery, and Public Health.
De Vera noted that the offering of limited face-to-face depends on the readiness of the HEI. Schools have to retrofit their facilities and implement flexible learning, among others.
Last month, CHED also announced that limited face-to-face classes will be expanded in other higher education degree programs upon the President’s approval.
Apart from Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, face-to-face activities in Engineering and Technology programs, Hospitality/ Hotel and Restaurant Management, Tourism/ Travel Management, Marine Engineering, and Marine Transportation have also been allowed.