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In-Person Classes For All Levels Eyed In January

In-Person Classes For All Levels Eyed In January
Medical Technology students of the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila hold in-person laboratory classes on Oct. 20, 2021. Some colleges and universities were allowed to resume face-to-face classes for select programs provided they would observe health and safety protocols against COVID-19. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

The Department of Education (DepEd) is anticipating the expansion of face-to-face (F2F) classes in all grade levels by January next year if the pilot resumption is successful.

Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said that from the current Kindergarten to Grade 3 levels, DepEd is looking to expand to higher grade levels in the expanded pilot phase.

They are looking at a nationwide expansion by next year in schools that will be able to pass the readiness requirements.

“With the condition that it will not depart from the pilot character, we are accelerating the completion of the pilot phase. We intend to submit our report to the President by the end of December.We anticipate the recommendation of an expansion by next year,” Malaluan said in an interview on One News’ “The Chiefs” on Tuesday night, Nov. 16.

He noted that DepEd and the Department of Health have been given authority by President Duterte to determine the number of schools that will participate in streamlining processes in the expanded pilot F2F.

Still, Malaluan said they are anticipating more challenges once it ramps up expansion, especially in congested urban areas such as Metro Manila.

“Scale is one of the key considerations that we will be working with. It is manageable now but when we scale it up, there will be more to manage at all levels of governance in the DepEd,” he said.

Malaluan said the agency is satisfied with the first few days of pilot resumption, even if there were some glitches such as teachers testing positive in an antigen test in Zambales.

The three public schools were able to resume classes after a confirmatory reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test showed that they were negative for COVID-19.

He noted this showed that the department and other stakeholders such as parents and local government units are ready with contingency measures.

“We are very happy, parents are happy. Teachers are happy to see our students come back to our schools. This pilot is the first phase toward an expanded phase that we hope will be a smooth pilot,” he added.

Malaluan gave assurance that teachers participating in the pilot F2F are fully vaccinated and are working with health authorities in helping the household members of the learners to be vaccinated.

Some 5,000 learners and about 800 teachers trooped back to school grounds on Monday after almost two years of only virtual learning amid the pandemic.

Limited in-person classes for college

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved limited F2F classes for all college programs in areas under Alert Level 3 and below, Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said Wednesday, Nov. 17.

He said under the first phase, which starts in December, all higher education institutions (HEIs) in areas under Alert Level 2 may apply for limited in-person classes.

Under the second phase, which starts in January 2022, all HEIs in areas under Alert Level 3 can apply for limited F2F classes.

The limited in-person classes are subject to certain conditions, such as 50% indoor venue capacity, no opposition from the local government unit concerned and participation of fully vaccinated teaching and non-teaching personnel and students only.

“The IATF would like to reiterate that the phased implementation of limited face-to-face classes in HEIs should be done alongside the continued implementation of proactive measures and restrictions that have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and have contributed to the steady decline in COVID-19 cases in the country. These include the vaccination of all eligible individuals, the wearing of masks, social distancing and hand-washing,” Nograles said in a statement.

He said the Commission on Higher Education “is mandated to execute the phased implementation program to ensure the safe reopening of higher education campuses.”

In January, Duterte approved limited F2F classes for medical schools and allied health science programs to ensure the country has enough doctors as it continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limited in-person classes were also allowed in other degree programs that “require hands-on experience” such as engineering and marine transportation in September.

Inclusive education

Meanwhile, a child’s right advocacy group has appealed to Congress to pass the inclusive education bill that will cater to learners with disabilities.

The Child Rights Network said Congress should resume the stalled bicameral committee deliberating on the Instituting Services for Learners with Disabilities Bill in Support of Inclusive Education Act.

It noted that once passed, the bill can significantly address the limited access to public education by some five million learners with disabilities.

The bill will address lack of a disability-friendly learning environment in most schools, lack of proper materials and facilities, even discrimination.

“We appeal to the bicam: take time to finally conclude the deliberations on the Inclusive Education Bill. Expediting the passage of this bill can and will be seen as a bold move that will prove that despite everything that is happening in the political arena, our legislators still have the future of learners with disabilities in mind. We are counting on you, our dear legislators,” CRN convenor Romeo Dongeto said in a statement. – With Helen Flores