education in the Philippines

Private schools want own guidelines on limited face-to-face classes

Bonz Magsambol
Private schools want own guidelines on limited face-to-face classes

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'Let’s admit it: private schools are different. They have their own facilities, they have their own doctors, and they have the space,' says Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

An organization of private schools in the Philippines appealed to the government for them to have their own guidelines or set of parameters in allowing limited face-to-face classes.

Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (Cocopea) Managing Director Joseph Noel Estrada made the appeal at a Senate basic education committee hearing on Wednesday, August 25.

“We’d like to reiterate our request to have a separate guidelines for pilot testing [of face-to-face classes] in the private education sector simply because the parameters and the environment are different, particularly on the consideration of space,” he said.

Estrada said that private schools in the country are capable of retrofitting its facilities to allow for safe return of students to schools.

“We remain to be on online remote learning because there’s no policy yet that allows us to give [face-to-face classes] option to our parents, and because the guidelines for private schools would also be lumped in the policy guidelines that would be presented by the Department of Education,” Estrada added.

Private schools want own guidelines on limited face-to-face classes
‘Luxury of space, facilities’

The idea to have a separate set of guidelines for private schools is supported by the senators present in the hearing.

“Let’s admit it: private schools are different. They have their own facilities, they have their own doctors, they have their own guidance counselors. They have the space,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who also chairs the basic education committee said.

“A one-size-fits-all policy is not appropriate for those that have the luxury of space and facilities,” he added.

Senator Pia Cayetano shared the same sentiment, saying that the guidelines for private schools would be “very different because clearly the resources of private schools are very different.”

Gatchalian asked the DepEd to look into the recommendation. “Let them demonstrate that they can do face-to-face classes,” he said.

During the hearing, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said that a joint circular crafted by the DepEd and the Department of Health on limited face-to-face classes has already been approved the government coronavirus taskforce.

This, however, doesn’t mean that pilot run of face-to-face classes in some 100 schools in low-risk areas is already a go. President Rodrigo Duterte needs to approve this first.

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The joint circular, which is set to be released next week, contains the requirements and parameters for safe reopening of schools, such as the transmission rate, availability of facilities, and enough space to hold classes while allowing social distancing.

Classes for school year 2021-2022 will start on September 13 while some private schools already started classes earlier this month. Due to the continuing threat of the pandemic, schools in the country will again use the distance learning system – a mix of online classes and printed learning modules – following the President’s directive to suspend face-to-face classes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available.

Distance learning had been widely criticized as the Philippines appeared unprepared for it. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.