MANILA - Sen. Imee Marcos on Friday questioned the national government's reluctance to resume face-to-face classes, especially in areas with low COVID-19 cases, noting that cockfights and other recreational activities have been allowed to resume.
There has been "consistent evidence that face-to-face classes are not super spreaders," Marcos said during a Senate hearing, citing several countries that have created safe learning spaces in schools in the midst of the global pandemic.
Philippine schools had to shift to distance learning modes, including the use of online and broadcast platforms and physical modules, to prevent the spread of the virus in campuses.
"I will confess my bafflement and fury several days ago when the cockpits were officially opened and allowed to operate. Has gambling now become an essential activity to Filipinos and education a frivolous luxury?" she said.
"Let us open the schools wherever we can and keep them accessible for as long as possible," she said.
Government allowed cockfights to resume last month in areas under modified general community quarantine, but guidelines said audiences are barred in cockpit arenas.
Marcos, the former governor of Ilocos Norte, urged Department of Education (DepEd) officials present in the hearing to push for the resumption of physical classes, saying the distance learning system has been taking a toll not just on students, but also on adults supervising the new mode of education.
The responsibility of acting like teachers at home after their duties at work has been "taking a toll on working mothers," the senator said.
"Teachers remain at a loss addressing the huge learning gaps generated by erratic remote learning and substandard inadequate modules," she said.
The DepEd conducted a study that showed that some Filipino students "are having difficulties in this form of delivery of instruction."
"They have monitored that some of the activity sheets that are coming back are not finished or are not completed," DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said.
"Our learners can handle multiple choice but find difficulty handling complex multiple choice and open response questions," he said.
"The presence of teachers cannot be fully replaced with distance learning especially with young children," he said.
The unequal access to the internet and to gadgets also contribute to the students' inability to efficiently learn through the distance learning system, he said.
The DepEd earlier said that is was willing to resume physical classes in January 2021, but President Rodrigo Duterte had said that face-to-face classes would remain banned while a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be developed and administered in the country.