MANILA (UPDATE) — Education Secretary Leonor Briones said Monday face-to-face classes would remain prohibited until a vaccine against the new coronavirus was made available in the country.
“We will comply with the President’s directive to postpone face-to-face classes until a vaccine is available,” Briones said in a statement.
Briones was reacting to pronouncements made by President Rodrigo Duterte in a taped address, which aired Friday morning, where the chief executive suggested that there should be no classes until a vaccine against the respiratory illness was developed.
Duterte, in the same taped address, also expressed doubts whether the country was ready for distance learning, but said he would support the Department of Education.
“Indeed, it is a challenging task for us at the Department of Education to prepare our schools in a different set-up but we are committed to our duty to make education available and thriving, even in the most difficult time,” Briones said.
But at the Palace briefing on Monday, Briones said she would ask permission from Duterte to allow face-to-face classes in areas where there are no COVID-19 cases.
Schools that will be allowed to hold in-person classes must follow minimum health standards, such as reduced class sizes, she said.
Briones said DepEd has been preparing for the implementation of blended learning, which involves the mixed use of online platforms, printed or digital modules, and radio and television.
Teachers are also being trained to utilize the new platforms in delivering lessons, she said.
Briones added that they are working with education experts and partners from the private sector to develop, acquire and deploy learning resources.
The education chief assured that they would regularly provide assessment reports to the public.
As of Monday morning, around 6.4 million students have enrolled in public and private schools nationwide, according to data provided by the DepEd.
Calabarzon has the most number of enrollees with 1.2 million, followed by the National Capital Region (NCR) with 895,406, DepEd data showed.
Learners may enroll in public schools for the entire month of June. The DepEd has ordered that registration during the first 2 weeks should be done through remote methods, such as text messaging or social media.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), meanwhile, said the high turnout in NCR and Calabarzon showed that the regions had better access to remote enrollment.
“The enrolment data DepEd brags about reveals an alarming reality—constituents in poorer and more remote rural areas have little to no access to remote modalities,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said in a statement.
The lack of “remote modalities” in remote rural areas indicated that “millions of poor children in provinces will likely be left behind if classes will officially resume through distance learning,” Basilio added.
For School Year 2019 to 2020, over 27 million K-12 students were enrolled in public and private schools, state universities and colleges, and Philippine schools overseas, DepEd data showed.
The coming school year is scheduled to formally start on August 24.