‘We continue with blended learning but in very specific places only. As much as possible, it will be face-to-face classes,’ says President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will allow blended learning to continue in “very specific” areas even after the October 31 transition period set by the Department of Education (DepEd), Malacañang said in a statement on Wednesday, July 20.
The President’s decision came after Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte asked about the possibility of institutionalizing blended learning during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 19.
Duterte’s first order as education secretary set the resumption of face-to-face classes for all schools on November 2.
It was met with an outcry from students and other stakeholders worried worried about schools’ capacity to ensure health protocols.
Marcos considered several challenges faced by schools, such as the availability of classrooms, teachers, and other concerns in shifting to the traditional face-to-face classes.
“Ang gawin na lang natin [ay] i-identify saan ‘yung areas na magbe-blended learning para maka-focus tayo. Ihanda ‘yung mga devices at mga kailangan nila na noong pandemic hindi nasu-supply- an sa mga bata,” Marcos said.
(What we’re going to do is identify areas that would do blended learning so we could focus on them. We will prepare the devices and other needs that were not supplied to students at the height of the pandemic.)
“We continue with blended learning but in very specific places only. As much as possible, it will be face-to-face classes,” he added.
The government has yet to identify the specific areas where blended learning would be allowed. The blended learning setup is a mix of face-to-face and online classes.
Face-to-face classes still ‘priority’
In a statement on July 20, Duterte said Marcos agreed that a plan should be made, with a “caveat that face-to-face classes shall be the priority and blended modality shall be considered only in specific schools and areas with special circumstances.”
“DepEd will prepare a plan to be reviewed by the President. The requirement of the 5-day in-person classes by November 2, 2022, is still in effect,” she added.
While it is high time Philippine schools returned to face-to-face classes, students and parents who shared their views on social media said in-person classes should be done only in areas where it is safe to do.
The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (Cocopea) with its 2,500 member schools asked Duterte to allow them to continue blended or hybrid learning even after October 31.
Cocopea made it clear that they do not oppose the return to face-to-face classes but they asked for “flexibility.”
Basic education schools in the country will start classes on August 22. The DepEd order gives them until October 31 to transition to in-person classes.
Over two years into the pandemic, the Philippines is among the few countries in the world where schools have not fully opened for in-person classes.
As of April 22, only 25,786 of an estimated 60,000 public and private schools nationwide were holding in-person classes.
Some studies have shown that students are “learning less” under the distance learning setup. Experts and lawmakers were alarmed by the learning losses brought by the pandemic.
Data from the World Bank said that the Philippines’ learning-adjusted years of school (LAYS) would be pushed back from 7.5 years pre-pandemic to 5.9 to 6.5 years, depending on the length of further school closures and the effectiveness of the remote learning setup.
This means that while the Philippine basic education system offers 12 years of instruction, Filipino students show proficiency equivalent to only around six years spent in school. – Rappler.com