No face-to-face classes as Duterte OKs DepEd's 'blended' learning proposal

Jonathan de Santos, Alexis Romero, Franco Luna - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night said he supports the Department of Education's push for "blended" or distance learning so classes can resume despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Education Secretary Leonor Briones assured the president and the public that face-to-face classes will not be held in August, when classes are scheduled to resume.

Briones said there may have been some confusion but assured the public that "opening of school does not mean face-to-face classes as we are used to."

She said learning materials can be accessed through printouts, or online. Those who do not have access to computers or the internet can also be reached via television or radio, although Briones said that a majority of respondents in an DepEd survey said they can go online.

"These are all consistent with your preference that we should not be physically sending our children until this is safe to do so," she said.

"We are one with you in this non-negotiable commitment. The first and foremost concern is the health and safety of our learners and teachers. The regions are different from each other. Some have interconnectivity. What we are doing is to translate our curriculum."

After listening to Briones' short statement, Duterte said he believes the DepEd's proposal is workable.

"We'll have to forego many things along the way, but education — I think if it is compromised it should be negligible, so that it should go on because the future of this country depends on how we educate our young people nowadays."

Government may tap private broadcast networks

Malacañang said earlier Thursday that the government may tap private broadcast networks — including ABS-CBN if its franchise is renewed — for its distance learning efforts.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government would need several broadcast companies to reach as many students as possible.

"All private media companies may be tapped and if ABS-CBN can come back on the air, I’m sure as a way of showing the commitment to the Filipino people, that they will allow their broadcast to be used for educational purposes and it goes for all the broadcast companies in operation especially community (broadcasters)," Roque said at a press briefing.

"We have several grade levels and I’m sure we would need more than one, more than two, more than three companies at a time to partner with DepEd for distance learning," he added.

Broadcasting giant ABS-CBN, which had been accused by President Duterte of biased reporting, was forced to go off the air last May 5 because of a cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission.

The network's franchise expired last May 4 without the House of Representatives acting on bills for its renewal. Various sectors have decried the shutdown, saying it constituted an attack on press freedom and was meant to discourage other networks from reporting critically about the government.

Officials have denied that the shutdown was related to press freedom and have insisted that free expression is very much alive in the Philippines. Bills renewing ABS-CBN's franchise are still pending at the House.

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