President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the proposal to allow limited face-to-face (F2F) classes in areas with low-risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infection for as long as minimum health standards are in place.
In a taped meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) aired Tuesday morning, Duterte gave Education Secretary Leonor Briones the go signal to allow limited F2F classes in areas under the least restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
Briones said limited F2F classes would be allowed only if schools are amenable to the idea of holding in-person classes at least once or twice a week; if school facilities are in a good state; if schools meet minimum health standards; and if the host local governments are ready to support the schools financially.
She noted that a number of local governments have sent requests to allow limited F2F classes such as Siquijor, Dinagat Islands, Siargao, and other areas with almost zero cases of Covid-19.
The President responded by saying he supported Briones’ suggestion as long as limited F2F classes were strictly regulated.
“I’m with you on this. Let’s try to make ourselves productive even how constricted the times are,” Duterte said.
Duterte admitted that the education sector is one of the sectors the national government is most concerned about in light of the health crisis.
“Sa education, isang sector ‘yan na worried kami (Education is one of the sectors we are most worried about),” he said.
He emphasized the importance of allowing learning to continue, especially as it will affect the future of students.
“Alam mo ang edukasyon, kinabukasan ng mga bata ‘yan (You know, the future of children depends on their education). They have to finish a course para mabuhay sila (so that they can live),” he said.
“I know the apprehensions of Secretary Briones pero maghintay kayo, maghintay na lang (but just wait),” he added.
Several lawmakers namely Senators Nancy Binay and Imee Marcos, Batanes lone district Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr. and Davao Del Norte (1st District) Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez have pushed for limited F2F classes saying it would close inequality gaps.
Private school associations such as Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) have also been pushing for the same.
On Friday (July 17), Duterte signed Republic Act 11480 which allows the opening of classes beyond August.
The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier scheduled the school opening on Aug. 24, 2020 and the end of the school year on April 30, 2021.
Malacañang said the new law gives the Executive Department, particularly the DepEd, “flexibility” in deciding how to adjust the school calendar. However, the decision to set a different date for the start of the school year will depend on Briones. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)