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P27 Billion Additional Economic Output Seen With F2F

P27 Billion Additional Economic Output Seen With F2F
A teacher sprays alcohol on the hands of a student during the pilot run of face-to-face classes at the Payatas B Elementary School in Quezon City on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. Photo by Russell Palma, The Philippine STAR

The Philippines can gain P27 billion per week in additional economic output if face-to-face learning goes full blast, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said on Monday, Dec. 6.

“That is if the 30 million students actually go out. There are tremendous benefits to be reaped,” Chua explained.

However, he noted this would depend on the expansion of COVID-19 vaccination to include all children. As of now, only 12- to 17-year-olds are included in the inoculation program.

Data showed there are 12.7 million children aged 12 to 17, 15.5 million aged five to 11 and 4.6 million aged three to four or a total of 32.8 million minors needing vaccination.

After nearly two years of school closure, the government piloted face-to-face classes last month to avert further learning losses. This has been expanded to more schools as the whole country is now placed under Alert Level 2.

The Philippines is among the last few countries to reopen schools. In Southeast Asia alone, it is the only country that has never reopened since the pandemic.

Singapore has fully opened while neighboring Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam have partially reopened even before the Delta surge.

“The important thing is to get the pilot started, continue the pilot and learn from it and improve. If we don’t start, then we will never get to full opening,” Chua said.

Apart from the additional economic output, Chua said resuming face-to-face classes would also avert around P11 trillion in productivity losses.

This will also improve learning outcomes by 50% as the online or modular scheme is only half as effective as face-to-face classes.

“It will free up the time of parents who skip work or reduce work time to accompany their children in home learning,” Chua said.

Further, Chua said the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Health should set standards for all schools before they can pilot face-to-face, and conduct random audits once they start.

For local government units still unwilling to reopen schools, he said there should be more engagement with them to address their concerns through the conduct of advocacy campaigns.

Chua likewise encouraged the conduct of preparatory activities to orient parents and students in managing anxiety and other concerns over the resumption of face-to-face learning.

Chua also said attendance can be mixed. “We can have a bubble system. It can be twice a week or one full week of school and two weeks of online classes,” Chua said.

“No regular testing as this is not cost effective. Instead, those with symptoms should stay at home, undergo quarantine and get tested,” he said.

DepEd, meanwhile, has added 177 schools to its pilot rollout of face-to-face classes from just 100 public schools.

The additional schools included 28 from the National Capital Region. They started face-to-face classes on Monday as scheduled by the DepEd. – With Rainier Allan Ronda