Panel of science, medical experts sought for plans to resume physical classes
Students of the Araullo High School in Ermita, Manila attend their first class during the opening of the new school year on June 3, 2019
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File photo

Panel of science, medical experts sought for plans to resume physical classes

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - February 17, 2021 - 9:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House Education Committee chairman on Wednesday said the reopening of schools should not be left for politicians to decide but on a group of science and medical experts which he suggested for the education department to form.

Calls for a return of physical classes had surfaced recently with the administration touting developments on vaccines purchase even when it has yet to sign supply deals with drugmakers.

In a webinar with teachers, education experts and students, Rep. Roman Romulo (Pasig) acknowledged that distance learning had been a struggle, but making the decision should come with insights from the right people.

"'Wag tayo pumasok kaagad diyan lalo na sa NCR at urban centers na nagde-desisyon lang ay pulitiko, non-scientist [at] non-medical," he said. "Kailangan talaga rito ay tama ang desisyon..para maprotektahan natin ang kabataan, teaching at non-teaching personnel at mga magulang."

(We should not go into that in a hurry especially in Metro Manila and urban centers where only those who decide are politicians, non-scientists or non-medical individuals. This needs a proper decision to protect our children, teaching and non-teaching personnel as well as parents.)

The prolonging difficulties in the new setup and yet the pandemic still infecting more than a thousand daily have split policymakers on whether to wait further or push for the resumption of in-person learning.

In the Senate, members have questioned why most of the restrictions — including the allowing of cinemas and video game arcades — were now being relaxed when schools remained shut.

Romulo's counterpart in the upper chamber, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, early this month pressed the Duterte administration to make the resuming of face-to-face classes limited with projected developments on the COVID-19 jabs.

In December 2020, government approved a pilot run on the move but only to be rescinded by the president due to the threat of the more infectious variant of the coronavirus disease.

With plans at a stand still, the education department has yet to give updates on the resumption of classes, but it is expected to be included in next week's Cabinet meeting.

In the same webinar, a group revealed findings from a survey that ran in late 2020. It showed that out of 1,395 teacher respondents, 46.7% believe that DepEd had not properly ensured their health and safety amid the pandemic.

A significant 70.9% too were not confident that students were grasping the lessons taught under the distance learning setup.

"Mag-adjust tayo, pilitin natin makahanap ng tamang solusyon na makahatid ng edukasyon," Romulo said. "Hindi talaga natin puwedeng pabayaan na walang matutunan ang ating mga mag-aaral."

(We have to adjust and push to find the right solution to deliver education. We can't let it happen that our students are left without anything to learn.)

Distance learning classes in the Philippines began in October 2020 with 25 million students enrolled, a figure down by a significant two million from the previous school year who opted to forego the year.

Before the resumption of classes months since it was cut abrupt, groups have urged officials to postpone as they warn that difficulties may leave many behind. With the second quarter now ongoing, it seems the said challenges prevail.

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