MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Education (DepEd) said Thursday there was no conflict between its plans on the start of the coming school year and President Rodrigo Duterte's recent statement that he would disallow classes until a coronavirus vaccine is available.
"There is no conflict, no disagreement, no debate between the pronouncement of the president and the department because they're exactly the same," Education Secretary Leonor Briones said at the televised Laging Handa briefing.
Briones said the DepEd, like Duterte, would not allow face-to-face learning in crowded classrooms when classes open on the proposed schedule in August, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
"Pareho ang posisyon namin dahil ayaw din namin dikit-dikit ang klase," said Briones.
(We share the same position because we don't want crowded classes.)
In a separate briefing, Briones said the DepEd would provide alternatives to in-person classes, which have been discouraged to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in schools, so students and teachers would not be idle while waiting for a vaccine against the respiratory disease.
The DepEd would be using online platforms, printed modules, television and radio to deliver lessons.
"Kung maghintay tayo vaccine, well and good, basta may alternative din, because we cannot be waiting exclusively for the vaccine," she said.
(If we are going to wait for a vaccine, well and good, but at least we have alternatives, because we cannot be waiting exclusively for the vaccine.)
"We cannot have education come to a standstill in the country," she added.
In a taped address aired late Monday, Duterte said he would not allow physical classes unless a vaccine against COVID-19 was available in the country.
"I will not allow the opening of classes na magdikit-dikit 'yang mga bata," he said.
"Unless I am sure that they are really safe, it's useless to be talking about the opening of classes. Para sa akin, bakuna muna. Kapag nandiyan 'yung bakuna, okay na (Vaccine first. When the vaccine is there, then it's ok)," said the chief executive.
The following day, Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque clarified that the president was only prohibiting face-to-face classes in areas that would remain under community quarantine.