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Limited In-Person Classes Eyed For All College Courses In January

Limited In-Person Classes Eyed For All College Courses In January
Students of the medical technology program of the University of Santo Tomas hold limited face-to-face classes last Oct. 20, 2021. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is eyeing the resumption of limited face-to-face classes in all courses by January if a high level of vaccination rate among students and faculty is achieved.

CHED Chairman J. Prospero de Vera III said they are just starting to discuss guidelines for the resumption of other degree courses and aim to finish before the end of the year.

“We are targeting to finish the guidelines maybe by November to December, see what the situation is on the ground and see if it all works by January,” he said in Filipino at a Laging Handa press briefing on Friday, Oct. 22.

De Vera said the resumption for all courses cannot be implemented as of now due to the low rate of vaccination among students, currently only at 27 percent.

“The vaccination rate is still low. We can’t gamble on the safety of the students and their families if the vaccination level is low,” he added.

CHED is looking to vaccinate all higher education students and is also discussing if it will require mandatory vaccination for face-to-face classes.

“There’s still a lot of work to do. We’re hoping 70 to 95 percent are vaccinated. The key isn’t with CHED, but with the school and their coordination with the local government,” he added.

De Vera added that vaccination rate among students is not the only consideration, but also includes inoculation of the general public and the risk level in the community.

CHED has already approved expanded face-to-face classes to engineering, hotel and restaurant management, and maritime courses from the initial medicine and allied health courses.

CHED Mulls In-Person Classes For All Degree Programs

Pilot schools down to 30

Meanwhile, on the basic education level, the Department of Education (DepEd) said the participating schools in the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes has currently gone down to 30.

Data released last Oct. 19 showed that only 30 schools in six regions will push through with the pilot implementation, about half of the 59 schools identified and approved by the Department of Health (DOH).

The schools are located in Masbate province in Region 5, Antique and Aklan in Region VI, Cebu Province in Region VII, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur in Region IX, Lanao del Norte in Region X, and North Cotabato in Region XII.

DepEd Assistant Secretary Malcom Garma said these schools are confirmed to resume face-to-face classes by Nov. 15.

The other 29 that were previously identified as pilot schools decided not to push through due to issues in securing concurrence of local government units or the parents of the student. 

Some are also located in areas where spikes in COVID-19 cases were recorded.

Garma said the pilot implementation will push through on Nov. 15 even if they fail to bring the number of participating schools to 100 as approved by the DOH.

But he said 70 more public schools are being revalidated and could make the list for the pilot study, with another 46 in the participating regions appealing for their inclusion.

The pilot implementation is set to run for two months to determine if the face-to-face classes may be expanded to other geographical areas and grade levels amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the proposal to shorten the period of the pilot study, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said it might not be feasible due to preparations needed for it to be conducted.

“Perhaps one month would be too short because one month would include the preparations. We don’t start classes just open doors and let kids come in, there are preparations to be made. After the prescribed period,” she said in a virtual briefing.

“We have to also conduct the assessment, perhaps one month would be too short,” she added.

Briones said the department needs to see data and information to properly determine what next moves or actions to take in terms of in-person classes, especially with the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the department already has augmentation funds set aside for possible additional needs of the schools that will participate in the pilot.