MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte approved a trial run of face-to-face classes in January despite the threat of COVID-19 because the current blended learning "is far from ideal," Malacañang said on Tuesday.
The pilot run will be held in areas with low COVID-19 tallies, and should have the consent of students' parents and the local governments, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"Ano iyong primary consideration? Kasi alam natin na talagang itong ginagawa nating blended learning is far from ideal," he told reporters.
(What is the primary consideration? We know that the ongoing blended learning is far from ideal.)
Blended learning makes use of online classes, learning modules, and television and radio broadcast. Slow internet and distracting learning environment have plagued the set-up.
"Ideal pa rin talaga is face-to-face. We’re trying to see if we can live with the virus, at malalaman natin kung pupuwede nga, lalo na sa mga areas na talagang wala naming COVID na," said Roque.
(Face-to-face is still ideal. We're trying to see if we can live with the virus. And we will know if it can be done especially in areas that no longer have COVID.)
President Duterte earlier said in-person classes would remain prohibited unless a vaccine against COVID-19 is available in the country.
The Department of Education has said it would reduce class sizes and implement staggered schedules to ensure that schools observe health standards during the dry run of face-to-face classes next month.
Participating schools also need to meet health protocols such as proper ventilation, and availability of face masks, face shields, and hand washing facilities, said the agency.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), meanwhile, urged the government to address the lack of water facilities, clinics and nurses in schools with the plan to hold pilot testing of in-person classes.
“Our teachers and learners cannot be saved by face masks, alcohol and physical distancing alone. We are dealing with active children here. The best protection for them is a safe, preventive and pandemic-responsive learning environment,” said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.