At least 100 public schools and 20 private schools will participate in the pilot return to face-to-face classes, even as a new school year under a blended online-modular scheme has begun.
The pilot run will involve only minimal-risk areas that would meet the school safety assessment criteria set by the Department of Health, and that would have the support of its local government unit.
Students who will participate in the face-to-face trial should have the written consent of their parents; according to the Department of Education, no learner shall be forced to attend the pilot implementation.
For two months, participants will attend face-to-face classes for a half day every other week.
The operational guidelines were jointly prepared by the Health and Education departments with the help of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and other groups specializing in children’s health.
We welcome this step toward normalcy, happening at the same time that targeted restrictions are also being implemented instead of sweeping lockdowns that have so crippled our economy and caused hardship to many.
The past year and a half has exposed the outrageous gaps in our educational system. Students, dealing with the threat of the virus against them and their families, forced themselves to learn despite constraints in connectivity and conduciveness in learning environments. Admittedly, some students can afford online education better than others.
Many countries around the world have also started resuming face-to-face classes, not because the virus has gone but because we’d like to think we have found intelligent and logical ways to co-exist with it.
There are risks—big ones—of course. An issue is the non-requirement of vaccination for participating teachers, who may be putting themselves and their young wards at the risk of contracting the virus.
Then again, the pace of our vaccination rollout is only belatedly picking up, and it is not as though all unvaccinated teachers willfully refused to get themselves inoculated. The obvious solution is to make them a priority, sustain our procurement of vaccines from the global market, and improve the logistics in distributing and administering the doses.
Many practical issues will no doubt come up as face-to-face classes resume. What will spell the difference between success and failure is the anticipation of these issues and the immediate response to them.
We cannot keep our learners stuck at home indefinitely. The quality of learning has already greatly suffered, worsened by economic inequities and systemic ills that hound our education system. There is no way the virus is going away soon, too. We have no choice but to learn how to coexist with it while protecting ourselves and preserving our way of life.