MANILA — Education must continue despite unexpected obstacles, Secretary Leonor Briones said Wednesday as she reflected on 2021 as it drew to a close.
At the sidelines of an engagement in Pasig City, Briones admitted that 2021 was a challenging year for the Department of Education (DepEd).
"We were expected to make plans but we can't even predict the onset of new variants," she said, referring to the COVID-19 variants that pushed back DepEd's plans to resume in-person classes.
The DepEd was supposed to restart in-person classes through a pilot phase earlier this year but President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled this over the emergence of the infectious alpha variant.
In-person classes were banned in March 2020 due to COVID-19, with schools shifting to remote learning.
The pilot phase of the return to on-site classes, which had nearly 300 participating schools, finally began in mid-November and concluded last Dec. 17.
"It was very challenging, but it's not for us to complain because our country has survived so many challenges, so many crisis... Education must continue. Education must never stop," she said.
Briones said teachers must prepare students to adapt to change.
"The capacity, the strength, the courage, the fearlessness to accept that change is happening. And you can respond by face-to-face [classes], you can respond by ICT (information and communications technologies), you can respond by other ways of communication," she said.
Briones said she hoped more children would return to physical classes as the DepEd prepared to expand in-person instruction early next year.
But she assured that the agency prioritizes the health and safety of students and school personnel.
The DepEd is preparing its report and recommendation on the expansion of in-person classes, which will be submitted to President Duterte for his comments.
Briones said she was "optimistic" that Duterte would approve the expansion phase, the second in the DepEd's three-part plan to reopen schools as the country continued to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.