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This school year will be unlike any other: A return to face-to-face classes

After losing out on face-to-face classes and making new acquaintances for more than a year owing to the epidemic, students are able to appreciate the pleasures of coming to school once more.

After 20 months of blended learning, students in locations classified as low risk for the coronavirus began to return to limited face-to-face classrooms around the country in November. Despite the challenges of the epidemic, the Department of Education, along with other government agencies and partners, made significant progress in reinstating face-to-face education.

The experimental run of limited in-person classes, which began on November 15, was “extremely successful,” according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

Briones praised the efficient execution of the in-person classes at all of the schools that participated – public, private, and international schools – in her report to President Rodrigo Duterte on December 28.

As a result, the schools were able to operate securely throughout a pandemic while adhering to strict health regulations. There were no Covid-19 instances or significant occurrences affecting students reported.

To protect the safety of the students, all teaching and non-teaching employees involved in the pilot were obliged to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“So, Mr. President, we believe we can proceed, and we appreciate you for granting the DepEd, the Department of Health, and the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) permission to continue the assessment of schools that may be qualified for face-to-face growth,” Briones added.

Subject to the president’s assent, the department hopes to extend the number of schools that can use face-to-face learning.

Thousands of students in about 100 schools throughout the country reopened for limited in-person courses, despite reservations from some parents and students.

A week later, a total of 20 private schools followed suit. Meanwhile, on December 6, 28 public schools in the National Capital Region began a test program of limited in-person classes.

After receiving feedback from their local governments, a low-risk designation for Covid-19, and clearing the school safety assessment instrument, the participating schools were allowed to participate.

Only those students who were able to obtain parental authorization and who did not have any comorbidities were allowed to attend the lessons.

Learners in Kindergarten to Grade 3 and Senior High School (SHS) taking the Technical-Vocational-Livelihood Track were eligible for the limited in-person lessons.

Class numbers were likewise kept small, with 12 students in Kindergarten, 16 in Grades 1–3, and 12 in SHS.

Enrollment numbers that are higher

The number of students enrolled increased by 4% to 27.2 million for the school year 2021-2022, according to data from the Learner Information System released in November.

Learners and parents have shown “a significant showing of trust” in DepEd in providing learning opportunities in the midst of the pandemic, according to the department.

“By establishing stricter quality control methods, we were able to eliminate errors in our self-learning modules (SLMs).” We enhanced the functionality of DepEd TV, DepEd Commons, and other regional blended learning projects,” it continued.

The Alternative Learning System, on the other hand, has a total enrollment of 239,616 students, down from 599,365 last year.

According to the DepEd’s timetable, the restricted face-to-face classes will begin expanding in January 2022.

The Philippines was one of five countries in the globe that had not started in-person classes since the pandemic began before resuming.

As it began its pilot of limited and voluntary in-person lessons in low-risk areas, the United Children’s Education Fund stated its support for the Philippine government in inviting children back to school.

“We recognize that conducting in-person schooling in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic is fraught with difficulties and risks. However, existing research suggests that beginning in-person classes as soon as possible delivers greater benefits than dangers in the context of learning to live with endemic Covid-19,” it added in a joint press statement with the World Health Organization and the United Nations dated November 15.

According to the report, pilot in-person schooling is a “good step” that allows students to learn how to control and reduce the risk of infection in educational settings. As in-person learning grows to new locations and schools, this can be implemented.

For the country’s readiness to deliver remote learning in response to school closures, UNICEF gave the DepEd a five-star grade across all levels of basic education.

After ‘Odette,’ schools are being rehabilitated.

Typhoon Odette, the strongest to hit the country this year, impacted 29,671 schools and 12 million students in 11 areas, according to Briones.

On the request of the DILG, the DepEd has permitted the use of 656 public schools and 3,671 classrooms as temporary evacuation centers.

“As a result, we’ll require PHP 73.43 million to replace non-infrastructure damages and so on,” she explained.

The DepEd checked on its Quick Response Funds, where it still has PHP3.8 million and PHP227 million in savings from current and ongoing funds that have been downloaded to regional offices, as per Duterte’s instructions.

“We also identified 200 million more in funds with the Department of Education, Mr. President, which we will utilize to support the printing of modules that are still required for our face-to-face or blended learning strategy,” Briones stated.

The DepEd used this as an opportunity to invite the commercial sector and religious organizations to donate in whatever way they could so that learning could continue in the areas most affected by Typhoon Odette.

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