The face of education in our times

Published November 16, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


As face-to-face classes resumed in select public schools on Monday, Nov. 15, it is no longer a question of whether it could be done or not. While yesterday’s pilot run of face-to-face classes by the Department of Education (DepEd) was highly anticipated, both by those who have been supporting the idea and those who have asked for more caution, it wasn’t the first time schools in the country have allowed learners back inside their campuses since COVID started. Some colleges have been having select face-to-face classes since January of this year.

For DepEd, however, this has been new, with students belonging to 100 public schools experiencing for the first time in over a year how it feels to be back inside a proper classroom. The surprising thing for many, perhaps, has been the grade levels included in this pilot run. DepEd has allowed some learners from kindergarten to Grade 3 to step foot inside campuses again for yesterday’s back to (actual) school day. Some senior high school students are also included, particularly those belonging to Technical-Vocational tracks that require the use of specialized laboratories or learning spaces.

Although the definitions of what makes for a proper classroom has since changed to include health and safety protocols DepEd has long been confidently saying are sufficient, there are those who deem these measures insufficient. Chief among the concerns, naturally, has to do with virus transmission. Although teachers and school staff are vaccinated, the majority of learners who have been allowed back to physical classrooms are not because there is still yet to be a vaccine approved for children below teenage years.

And if it happens that a learner, through some unfortunate circumstance, gets COVID-19, who will be responsible? DepEd has said that it’s a team effort that involves not just the education sector but also the local government and the Department of Health (DOH).

At this point, however, only time will tell. With studies regarding the vaccination of children against COVID-19 well underway in some countries, perhaps it will only be a matter of time before younger learners get inoculated against this virus that continually plagues the world. What is clear though is that younger learners have greatly been affected by not being in an actual classroom for one school year. There have been reports of children suffering from obesity because of being stuck at home, without any avenue for physical activity that they would otherwise have in a normal school setup. Add to this the lack of healthy interaction with their fellow learners, one not mediated by a screen and plagued by less-than-desirable internet speeds.

COVID-19 remains a threat, there is no denying this. But perhaps, a year of lags in virtual classrooms should not translate into a lag in the growth and development of Filipino children. One can only hope that DepEd’s health and safety protocols, designed to protect both the learners and teachers, are truly followed in these 100 public schools that are now conducting face-to-face classes.