President Rodrigo Duterte stood firm on his decision to quell face-to-face classes, at least until August this year.
In an announcement, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the President has decided to rule out possibilities of physical classes despite calls for the government to seriously consider safe re-opening of in-class engagements.
“Nagdesisyon na po ang ating Presidente na wala pa ring face-to-face classes,” said Roque. who hinted at the President’s wish to prioritize safety.
“Ayaw niya malagay sa alanganin ang buhay ng mga mag-aaral at guro habang wala pang nababakunahan sa bansa,” he added.
However, face-to-face classes, he added, could be considered by August but only in places with low COVID-19 cases.
Cabinet members are supposed to discuss plans on conducting a dry run of limited face-to-face classes in select areas today amid growing calls for the safe reopening of schools even as the country continued to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said her department was preparing in case the president gives them the green light to pilot test the resumption of face-to-face or in-person classes.
Briones cited a survey conducted by the Department of Education (DepEd), which she said showed that “more than 50 percent” of students are in favor of attending in-person classes.
A “significant portion” of teachers also want to hold limited in-person classes while parents remain undecided on the matter, she added.
The government was supposed to hold the dry run on limited in-person classes in areas with low-risk of COVID-19 transmission last January but Duterte cancelled it amid the threat of the more infectious variant of the virus that emerged from the United Kingdom.
Briones reiterated that “stringent” conditions must be met before a school can implement limited in-person classes, such as securing the approval of the local government, getting written consent forms from parents, and ensuring students’ safety in public transportation, among others.
The education chief said prolonged school closures have an impact on the psychosocial welfare of students.
Interestingly, the Philippines remains the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to hold in-person classes, even on a limited scale to supplement distance-learning modalities.
Various groups have also called on the government to safely reopen schools and conduct in-person classes, citing predicaments hounding the existing blended learning system.