EDITORIAL - Face-to-face classes

EDITORIAL - Face-to-face classes

(The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Based on reports from the field, education officials themselves have reported the difficulties being encountered by students in blended learning. Apart from intermittent WiFi connection or lack of access to gadgets and the internet, there are school children who lack a private space at home that is conducive to learning.

Many students also need learning assistance from their parents. And there are parents who are unprepared to take on the role of tutors, either because they need to earn a living while their children are in school, or else because they lack the knowledge and skills required for the task.

Faced with such challenges, education officials are now discussing the possibility of resuming limited face-to-face classes as soon as circumstances allow. If the plan pushes through, the initial areas for the resumption will be those without COVID transmission over a certain period.

The Office of the Vice President has become embroiled in another controversy as Department of Education officials denied giving the green light for the “Community Learning Hubs” set up by the OVP in several areas. The OVP has clarified that the hubs are not rooms where face-to-face classes are held, but areas similar to internet shops, where school children without gadgets or WiFi at home can access the internet for their online classes. Difficult learners can also have access to tutors at the hubs. The seats are spaced following distancing protocols and are separated by transparent acrylic dividers.

Similar setups have been implemented in several countries where on-site classroom learning has resumed following a significant downward trend in coronavirus transmission. In recent weeks, however, some of the countries had to suspend the classes anew following a fresh wave of COVID cases. These developments are being monitored by DepEd officials amid discussions on the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes.

President Duterte has said there will be no face-to-face classes until a COVID vaccine becomes available. The position may have to be modified, however, if only to reduce the number of students being left behind as a result of pandemic restrictions. With the end of late enrollment on Nov. 21, the DepEd reported nearly 25 million total enrollees in both public and private elementary and high schools. This means about two million students are out of school for this academic year. With face-to-face classes still banned, the government must find innovative ways of promoting safe and inclusive learning.

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