A Grade 4 student who lives in a cart with her family listens to a volunteer teacher during the tutor a learning child simulation program by Dagat Dagatan Elementary School in Navotas City on July 2, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
DepEd, CHED propose limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - July 16, 2020 - 7:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) are proposing the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas that are under the most lenient modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

During a meeting of the government's pandemic task force last Wednesday, CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera said subjects that require physical presence like laboratory courses and internship may be moved to the next semester.

"Only classes that can be conducted through lectures, the theoretical, they can be taught in the first sem," De Vera said.

"So the options will be from the more open limited face-to-face in low-risk MGCQ areas to the most conservative do it in second semester," he added.

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said her agency is ready to start classes on August 24 even if it means distributing learning modules in areas with internet connectivity issues. She said the school opening should push through "whatever form it is."

"It can be done online or offline, it can be done through radio, television and if all these are not available, we can tap IBM or it's better manual. We will distribute at the school level learning resources. The local governments will distribute them from house to house and we will recruit what we call parateachers because not all parents can teach," Briones said.

"So in summary, many are asking for what they call a limited face-to-face (learning session)," she added.

Briones said other countries in Southeast Asia have adopted blended learning  with limited face-to-face interactions. She said schools should be ready to adjust to ensure that the education of students would continue despite the pandemic.

"As early as this month, we are training schools for parents, school for teachers, so they will be ready for whatever arrangement," the education chief said.

De Vera said the Philippines can adopt the practice of Thailand, where students are separated using plastic sheets. He said a one-meter distance can be observed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Health Secretary Franciso Duque III backed the proposal to hold limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas, where the case doubling rate is more than 28 days. He noted that the utilization rate of critical health systems in low-risk areas is also very low or less than 30%.

"So all of these really favor their (DepEd and CHED) proposition. The ten students per classroom that they mentioned is aligned with what we call physical distancing as part of the engineering controls," Duque said.

Duque also backed proposals to designate a single entrance and exit in schools and to set the temperature of airconditioners at 26 degrees Celsius. He said the virus can easily spread in areas with low temperature.

So (the proposal is) okay, Mr. President. We strongly endorse it, Mr. President," Duque said. 

Presidential spokesman Roque said President Duterte has asked DepEd and CHED to put their proposal in writing.

"The President said, 'I want to see in writing your proposals.' Give them to the members of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and we will discuss them," Roque said.
Duterte previously said he won't allow the holding of face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine is developed.

De Vera also reported that some schools are planning to close because of low enrollment.

"Some schools have informed CHED that they would close because their enrollment really went down, parents and students are afraid and others have not reported to CHED. The problem is we have no policy on closures because COVID has not happened before, so we are only crafting it," the higher education chief said.

"The effect of the contraction of the economy is on the enrollment," he added. 

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