The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday, June 8, said it would postpone face-to-face classes until a vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available.
"We will comply with the President’s directive to postpone face-to-face classes until a vaccine is available," DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said in a statement.
In a recorded address aired on Friday, June 5, President Rodrigo Duterte reiretated his earlier statement that there should be no classes until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.
"Maghintay ng vaccine (We should wait for the vaccine). Walang vaccine, walang eskwela (No vaccine, no classes). Secretary [Leonor] Briones is insisting that there is an alternative there. She has a very good program for that, like teleconferencing. The technology is good. I don't know if we are ready for that," Duterte said last Friday.
The President also expressed doubts about the country's capability to implement Briones' idea. (READ: Duterte on DepEd's distance learning: 'I don't know if we're ready')
"We are talking of students here, it's millions. Mayroon ba siya? (Does she have?) But if she has or if we can afford it, we'll buy it and she can proceed with her novel idea of how the children can continue with their education," he added.
Meanwhile, the DepEd said that they are "committed to our duty to make education available and thriving, even in the most difficult time."
In a televised briefing aired on state-run PTV4 on Monday afternoon, Briones was asked regarding the proposal of Pasig City Representative Roman Romulo to allow physical classes in remote islands.
"Kung papayag ang Presidente na magkaroon ng face-to-face sa mga lugar na ito ay titingnan namin ang kondisyon ng mga classrooms. 'Yung size ng classrooms, halimbawa, p'wede ba 'yung 1 to 2 meters na espasyo sa mga bata para may social distancing? Mayroon bang available na PPEs at emergency medicines? At [mayroon bang] rules of hygiene [katulad ng] handwashing facilities?" Briones said.
(If the President will allow face-to-face classes in these areas, we will check the conditions of the classroomns. The size of the classroom, for example, should allow the 1 to 2 meters spaces for social distancing. Will there be PPEs and emergency medicines? Will there be rules for hygiene, like handwashing facilities?)
Briones said that there are remote islands in the Philippines that have no cases of COVID-19, like Siquijor and Siargao islands.
Despite calls for delaying classes, the DepEd said that its preparation for the blended learning or distance learning approach is "underway" so classes can start on August 24. (READ: Teachers' group wants class opening delayed to January 2021)
"Radio, television, online and modular learning – which are pre-existing methods and were already used for decades – are being prepared and updated for this year. At the same time, teachers are being trained on utilizing newer platforms and innovative tools to aid their professional development," Briones said. (READ: PCOO offers gov't TV, radio stations to deliver lessons – Briones)
Distance learning means lessons will be delivered outside the traditional face-to-face setup.
A teachers' group June 3 said that, while a face-to-face setup for learning is out of the equation for now, delaying the opening of classes would give them more time to prepare for the distance learning approach.
The decision to open schools in the middle of the health crisis had been met with criticism. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education 'only for those who can afford')
Parents and students pointed out that the lockdown affected household finances. Many Filipinos don't even have access to a computer or the internet.
The DepEd maintained the lack of access to technology should not be a problem as schools will be providing printed modules for students. (READ: No need to buy gadgets, printed materials will be given – DepEd)
As of Monday, the DepEd said that over 6 million students signed up during the first week of remote enrollment.
As of Sunday, the Philippines recorded 21,895 cases of coronavirus, with 1,003 deaths and 4,530 recoveries. – Rappler.com