MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte "may allow" a proposed pilot test for in-person classes in some 120 schools, Malacañang said on Monday.
The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 has agreed "in principle" with the proposed limited face-to-face classes, which a "small group" of officials will present to Duterte, said his spokesman Harry Roque.
"Ang initial reaction ng Presidente, kung talagang pilot at sa mga areas na mababa talaga ang kaso [ng COVID-19], he may allow it," he said in a press briefing.
"Pero dapat pilot muna in areas na mababa talaga ang kaso, just so that we could... see if it works, if it can be implemented in other areas."
(The initial reaction of the President is if it's really a pilot and will be held in areas with few COVID-19 cases, he may allow it. But it should first be a pilot areas with low cases.)
The conduct of face-to-face classes has "ceased to be a purely education issue," Roque said.
"It is a multi-disciplinary issue now involving the health department" because of impact on children's mental well-being and their socialization skills, he said.
Government is also treating it as an "economic problem because we are dealing with a generation that could possibly be lost" as a result of hybrid learning, added the official.
The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to hold in-person classes for basic education, even on a limited scale to supplement distance-learning modalities, officials earlier noted.
Duterte has twice rejected a pilot test for face-to-face classes, the latest in February, because the COVID-19 vaccination drive had yet to be launched then.
Blended learning will continue when classes for school year 2021-2022 open on Sept. 13, the Department of Education earlier said.
This mode of instruction makes use of online classes, printed modules, and television and radio broadcasts.
Several groups, as well as officials of the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund are pushing for the safe reopening of schools for in-person classes, citing "grave" and "far-reaching" consequences of prolonged school closures on students' physical and mental health, skills attainment, and earning prospects.