Many of us adults in the labor sector are looking back to what we have suffered since the onset of the pandemic. Some have gone through terrible situations like job loss or getting infected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) while braving the workplace.
Like us, the young people and their teachers had a separate battle to fight. The education sector had been affected, too, forcing in-person classes to adjust to distance learning. Undeniably, the prolonged school closures and the spoiled school year have caused mental health impacts to both students and faculty members.
While we remember the scars the health crisis has brought, it is also important to celebrate the present milestones and look forward to more.
Back to classroom learning
Among the recent wins against the pandemic is the return of in-person learning with the Philippine government’s go-signal for the limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas for the virus. The Department of Education’s proposal of the pilot run in the 100 public and 20 private schools was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte last Sept. 20, as stated on the department’s official release.
The proposal was raised by Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Prospero de Vara last July. De Vera cited the subjects that require hands-on experience for students taking laboratory courses and internships as reasons for calling for physical classes. DepEd, meanwhile, said it is in consideration of education quality, mental health, and economic recovery amid the health crisis.
With the approval of the proposal, both the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) will identify the areas where the limited face-to-face classes will be implemented, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
CHED has earlier told schools who want to participate in limited face-to-face classes to apply for authority from CHED regional offices, but only areas under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) will be accepted. On the other hand, DepEd said the participating schools need to submit a resolution and written support from students’ parents and the local government unit where a certain school is located for the pilot classes to happen.
What Does Limited Face-to-face Classes Mean?
Contrary to the usual in-person learning conducted daily in the classroom, the DepEd explained that the limited face-to-face classes will be done every other week — properly scheduled and strictly monitored.
Briones, citing the guidelines, said that the learners in Kindergarten will be reduced to 12, while in Grades 1 to 3 will be down to 12 learners. The same will be implemented for technical-vocational classes, with a size reduced to 20 learners.
The class hours were also adjusted this school year. Class sessions of Kindergarten to Grade 3 will only run for a maximum of three hours. For higher education, particularly for Senior High School, class sessions can only be conducted for four hours maximum.
Are Limited Face-to-Face Classes Safe?
Going outside our homes means getting exposed to the virus. Thus, we cannot ignore the concerns on the safety of students and faculty members in schools. Parents are the first to raise questions when it comes to their children’s protection from COVID-19 in the face-to-face classes setup.
The DepEd does not fail to address these issues, assuring that the said program will be monitored closely for a couple of months and will be subjected to risk assessment. Along with the DOH, DepEd has determined mechanisms for the safe return of learners and educators to schools.
The participating schools for the pilot run have passed Readiness Assessment by the DepEd and the local government unit where the schools are located. Included on the guidelines that establish the school’s readiness to run in-person classes are:
Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate framework implementation with emphasis on the necessity of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities availability
- Ensuring proper ventilation in classrooms
- Ensuring that classroom set-up allows the safe physical distance between people
- Prioritization of students identified to benefit from limited face-to-face learning most
- Ensuring foot traffic management
- The conduct of simulation activities before the pilot implementation
Added to these standards, a contingency plan was also put in place by the education department to mobilize actions based on health scenarios like a surge of infection in several villages.
The readiness of the two departments was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Its representative to the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, who witnessed the signing of the guidelines for the pilot implementation, stressed the shared responsibility of the community to keep schools safe from COVID-19.
Is in-person learning better than online?
The answer may vary from one situation to the other, but both also have their pros and cons, especially during this pandemic.
The DepEd, in its recommendation on limited face-to-face classes presented to the President last year, said that distance learning has brought out the self-learning abilities of students, which can be proven beneficial for them. They said the teachers have tapped the parents as a helping hand in their kids’ education. Also, learning spaces went beyond the classroom as they reached the home, the community, and the online space.
But it did not discount the fact that face-to-face classes are still needed to mold the student’s social aspect. It also cited that students share different skills for self-learning, and the limited face-to-face classes will allow teachers to keep track of students’ learning progress.
The struggles under distance learning were revealed through a survey conducted by the Movement for Safe, Equitable, Quality, and Relevant Education (SEQuRe). According to the coalition, 53 percent of learners are left in doubt if they could take in the DepEd-arranged competencies for their degree programs or grade level under distance learning, as reported by the newspaper Nikkei. Only a small percentage of parent respondents, meanwhile, expressed confidence that their children comprehend what they are taught under distance learning.
We hope to regain normalcy little by little as we move forward and enter the second year of the pandemic.
The pilot implementation of face-to-face classes is here but only in selected, minimal risk areas. The rest of the basic education schools in the country will go on with blended distance learning like what other countries in Southeast Asia do. This means that most of the learning time of our students is still to be spent at home. It is therefore important that we consider making our home ideal for learning, too, for our young family members.
Camella continues to deliver its promised comfort for you and your family. The leader of the smart home technology movement, you are assured of connectivity for your online needs—may it be for your work or your childrens’ virtual classes—here in Camella. What’s more, it allows you to customize your space according to your needs. The best place to be in the pandemic, indeed.