THE Education Chief has answered some significant questions on the start of limited face-to-face classes on November 15, 2021 during the EduAKSYON: Aksyon at Solusyon para sa Edukasyon, a virtual press conference (presscon) with Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones.
This virtual program initiated by the Department of Education (DepEd) through the Public Affairs Service (PAS) headed by Director June Arvin Gudoy is unique and timely. Early this year, right after its launching, Secretary Briones has been seen live virtually every week to ensure that all questions are given light.
All the questions raised during the presscon were addressed clearly by Secretary Briones together with Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla for budget concerns, Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio for modules and curriculum concerns, Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma and Director Roger Masapol for the face-to-face classes and vaccination concerns.
Our 81-year-old active and brilliant leader emphasized shared responsibility.
This means DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) will work with local government units (LGUs), school officials, community stakeholders to ensure the safe operations of the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes.
This means this is not just a decision made by DepEd alone. It seeks the approval of the LGUs who are prepared to cooperate. It also seeks the permission of parents. It ensures the readiness of its own facilities for limited face-to-face learning.
The DOH will then assess the health side readiness of the school.
During the presscon, Secretary Briones clearly explained that the face-to-face classes that DepEd is planning and developing are not like the face-to-face classes we had before where teachers and learners stay all day in all subjects.
She said it is limited depending on the status of facilities, consent of the LGU, and the assessment of DOH.
Initially, it was laid down that blended learning will be applied alternately, one week face-to-face and another week distance learning.
For the class sizes, there will be 12 learners for Kinder; 16 for Grades 1 to 3; 20 for Senior High School (SHS); and 12 SHS in Technical-Vocational-Livelihood workshops or Science laboratories, with a maximum of 4.5 hours stay in school, except for Kindergarten with a maximum of three hours.
When asked about possible additional schools for the limited face-to-face classes, she said there are 77 schools already listed and considered and there are still 23 more schools to go.
It was initially declared that a maximum of 120 schools will be chosen for the pilot - 95 elementary schools, 5 senior high schools, and 20 private schools.
After November 15, Secretary Briones said she will report on the implementation to the president so he can decide if they need to expand. The goal, she said, is to have as many schools as possible to have face-to-face components because we recognize the important role of having this and the school environment as well.
In Davao Region, 18 schools were pre-identified but only 8 among them were recommended. These are schools from Davao de Oro and Davao del Sur.
Regional Director Allan G. Farnazo has also mentioned this during the presscon and he also shared that all of these recommended schools have 100 percent parents’ consent, statement of support from provincial LGU, and approved papers from barangay LGU.
In terms of vaccination, Director Farnazo also shared that among the 49,675 DepEd Davao Region personnel, 81.22 percent were vaccinated with the first dose and 70.79 percent with the second dose. The number is continuously increasing.
It is true that students are back to school in many countries. For example, the East Kanamachi Elementary school in the northeast corner of Tokyo, Japan has its classes, but each child is wearing a mask and was seated behind a personal vinyl shield.
The teacher is wearing a face shield and instead of asking the learners to pass papers down the rows, the teacher is handing them to each child to minimize contact among students. Some windows are open to keep air flowing.
The schools in Singapore are also open and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, from reports in July, said there were no school-based transmissions. He said they apply very stringent protocols and safe management measures to minimize interactions in the classrooms and ensure that there is no transmission within the school system.
In South Korea, schools were also opened early this year. At Towol Elementary School in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, for example, students’ temperatures were checked at the school entrance and again at their classrooms.
Teachers gave instructions on social distancing and mask-wearing.
In the Philippines, it is possible too for some schools to conduct limited face-to-face classes. With the help of all, being a shared responsibility, the face-to-face classes will bring back some kind of normalcy in the lives of our learners.
Let us hope that these limited face-to-face classes will bring great outcomes for our learners and our education system.