MANILA — The Department of Education (DepEd) said Tuesday it is developing a "learning recovery plan" that would guide schools in addressing learning gaps prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As more schools open their doors for physical learning, the Department is currently crafting a learning recovery program as part of our post-pandemic efforts," Education Secretary Leonor Briones said in a statement.
"We have to ensure that our interventions are effective so that everyone can catch up and accelerate their learning," she said.
The proposed strategies include extending the school calendar, expanding learning time, establishing learning support centers in schools and community-based learning spaces, conducting summer remediation and intervention programs, and hiring additional learning support aides, said Education Assistant Secretary Alma Torio.
The DepEd also plans to intensify reading interventions, conduct regular home visits to students, implement groups or buddy systems, and develop appropriate assessment tasks and resources.
The recovery plan involves addressing the "socio-emotional and behavioral recovery of learners," Torio said.
Torio said the first phase of the learning recovery plan will be implemented in the summer, while the succeeding stages will be in the next school years.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Secretary General Raymond Basilio said it is necessary for the DepEd to come up with a comprehensive learning recovery plan.
"Ngunit, sa pagbubuo nito, marapat na ang DepEd ay maging bukas na maglunsad ng malawakang konsultasyon... upang matiyak na ang mga programa ay lapat at naayon sa pangangailangan ng mga mag-aaral, guro at mga kawani," he told ABS-CBN News.
(But in crafting the policy, the DepEd should be open to launching an extensive consultation... to ensure that the program is suitable and in line with the needs of students, teachers and employees.)
"Mahalagang marinig ang boses, halimbawa, ng mga guro na aktuwal na nasa loob ng mga classrooms," he said.
(It's important to hear the voices, for example, of our teachers who are actually inside the classrooms.)
The government banned in-person classes in March 2022 due to the pandemic, forcing Philippine schools to shift to a remote learning setup that has raised concerns of learning gaps.
The National Economic and Development Authority, citing a US study, earlier said online learning is only about 52 percent as effective as in-person classes, while modular learning is even less effective at 37 percent.
Since November 2021, the government has allowed schools to gradually reopen for in-person classes, albeit at a limited capacity, as it acknowledged the limitations of remote learning.
In pushing last year for the safe reopening of schools, regional directors of the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund warned of the "grave" and "far-reaching" consequences of prolonged school closures on students' physical and mental health, skills attainment, and earning prospects.
WHO Director for the Western Pacific Takeshi Kasai and UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific Karin Hulshof said countries in developing Asia "should prepare for a reduction in the expected gains in reading and math skills for children in both preschool and primary school, as well as a wider achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers" because of the closures.
As of March 22, up to 10,196 basic education schools in the country have started conducting limited in-person classes, according to DepEd data.