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Philippines approves limited return to classroom learning

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Philippines approves limited return to classroom learning
Staff of Dagat Dagatan Elementary School in Navotas City prepare the classroom and other materials needed on Sept. 16, 2021 once the government allows the resumption of face-to-face classes.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:20 p.m.) — The Philippines on Monday moved closer to a limited reopening of schools that had been shut more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with President Rodrigo Duterte finally giving approval.

Before this, the United Nations Children's Fund said the Philippines and Venezuela are the last countries that have yet to allow a safe return to classrooms. 

The Philippines closed schools in March 2020 as the health crisis unfolded at home to become among Southeast Asia's worst coronavirus outbreaks. 

There is no official date yet for the start of the pilot run, nor a list of schools selected for this.

But Education Secretary Leonor Briones said this would be done initially for two months in 100 public schools in areas deemed "low risk" by the Department of Health. 

She added schools would also need to pass the Department of Education's safety criteria assessment, and would require support of local governments and parents' written consent to allow their children to participate. 

"We will start with 100 schools to observe how it will work," said Briones at a Palace briefing in Filipino, "then we will add 20 private schools that would submit their plans."

Under approved guidelines, the pilot run would be for Kindergarten up to Grade 3 in basic education, and for technical vocation students in senior high school. 

Briones said class size would be a maximum of 12 students in Kindergarten, 16 in Grades 1 to 3, and 20 in five senior high schools. 

School hours for basic education were set for three hours and four hours for those in senior high. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, too, that it would be done only every other week. 

"If the pilot study is safe, we will gradually increase," Briones added. "But we will watch closely the risk assessment. If there are changes, we will stop it like in other countries."

Classes in the Philippines officially began on September 13, with remote learning still the setup for over 28.2 million students. 

Groups have long warned of the negative impact of prolonging students' learning in their homes, with many difficulties seen from the setup in its first year of implementation.

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DISTANCE LEARNING
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 28, 2021 - 8:13pm

Follow this thread for updates on when classes will resume, and how those classes will be conducted.

Photo: Students wearing protective face masks have their temperatures taken while entering their college campus in Manila on January 31, 2020. AFP/Ted Aljibe

September 28, 2021 - 8:13pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized limited face-to-face classes for the following programs: 

  1. Engineering and Technology programs
  2. Hospitality/ Hotel and Restaurant Management
  3. Tourism/ Travel Management
  4. Marine Engineering
  5. Marine Transportation

Commission on Higher Education Chairman Popoy De Vera, who made the announcement, said the authorization applies to "degree programs that require hands-on experience in higher education institutions under Modified General Community Quarantine."

September 27, 2021 - 3:32pm

WHO Philippines says it applauds the government's decision to approve the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative in the Philippines, says they will continue to work with the government, particularly the DepEd and DOH, to support safe in-person learning.

"very child has the right to education, & schools are central to children’s development, safety, & well-being. Prolonged school closures have a significant impact on their physical & mental health development, and their skills attainment and career prospects," Abeyasinghe says.

September 26, 2021 - 3:09pm

Father-of-two Shkelqim Kameni took his children out of school because of Austria's strict COVID testing for pupils and his opposition to the vaccine.

The 28-year-old shop manager from the western city of Salzburg is among a sharp rise in parents opting to homeschool instead.

Even weeks before the new school year started this month, the divisive issue garnered media coverage and has provoked heated exchanges online between parents.

Speaking to AFP at an anti-vaccine demonstration, Kameni said he was afraid that rigorous Covid testing created too much pressure in the classroom.

"Probably a child (who tests positive) will be mobbed... it's psychological abuse of children; it's child abuse," he said at the rally in downtown Vienna this month, attended by thousands.

More than 7,500 children have been withdrawn from school for this academic year, the education ministry says. — AFP

September 20, 2021 - 12:15pm

A return to classroom learning in some schools is closer to happening, with presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying the government has authorized face-to-face classes in areas where there is minimal risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The Department of Health and the Department of Education will assess the areas for potential pilot classes. Pilot classes will also need the endorsement of the local government unit and of parents and guardians of the learners who will be involved.

September 13, 2021 - 12:18pm

Classrooms in the Philippines were silent Monday as millions of school children hunkered down at home for a second year of remote lessons that experts fear will worsen an educational "crisis".

While nearly every country in the world has partially or fully reopened schools to in-person classes, the Philippines has kept them closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN says.

President Rodrigo Duterte has so far rejected proposals for a pilot reopening of primary and secondary schools for fear children could catch COVID-19 and infect elderly relatives. 

"I want to go to school," seven-year-old Kylie Larrobis told AFP, complaining she cannot read after a year of online kindergarten in the tiny slum apartment in Manila she shares with six people.  

"I don't know what a classroom looks like — I've never seen one." 

Larrobis, who enters first grade this year, cries in frustration when she cannot understand her online lessons, which she follows on a smartphone, said her mother, Jessielyn Genel. 

Her misery is compounded by a ban on children playing outdoors. — AFP

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