DepEd heeds Duterte's call: No face-to-face classes until COVID-19 vaccine is available

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — The Department of Education on Monday complied with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to postpone face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the department is ready to take on the challenges of offering alternatives to physical classes, such as online and "blended" learning.

"Hindi pa pwedeng ang face-to-face learning so blended approach muna. Mukhang masarap, mukhang epektibo at mag-eenjoy ang mga bata," she said in a media briefing.

[Translation: Face-to-face learning is not yet allowed so we will take a blended approach. It looks better and more effective and students will enjoy this kind of learning.]

Online classes will be tapped if gadgets and a stable internet connection is available. Briones cited that 87 percent of teachers surveyed said they have computers at home. She added that the DepEd is also convincing the private sector to donate gadgets rather than the usual school bag and supplies during the annual Brigada Eskwela.

But in areas with slow internet connection and lack of personal gadgets, the delivery of lessons could be done through the use of television, radio, and learning modules and packets both in print and digital format.

"Kailangan i-adjust natin ito sa sitwasyon ng eskwelahan kung ano ang pangangailangan, ano ang estado ng mga bata, mag-aadjust ang teacher at ang school. Halimbawa, ang approach for NCR, iba ang magiging approach to a remote island or mountain. Depende sa availability ng communication," the secretary said.

[Translation: We have to adjust the mode of learning based on the needs and what is available. The teachers and school will adapt. The approach for far-flung areas will be different from the approach used in Metro Manila. It will depend on what mode of communication is available.]

Duterte has reiterated that he wants face-to-face classes postponed until there is a vaccine so students can safely go to their classes.

Some 6.4 million students have enrolled for the 2020-2021 school year. Briones believes DepEd will be ready for "blended learning" when classes resume again, insisting the concept has been in place since decades ago.

'We have nearly three months. We have been preparing from the time na nag-community lockdown [that we started the community lockdown]. We already saw the direction of policy kaya [so] we have been preparing since March... We are not inventing anything new kaya ang readiness ay importante [so readiness is important]," she said.

DepEd earlier released the calendar for the next school year, with classes slated to begin this August 24, and expected to end in April 2021.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases previously recommended moving the opening of classes to September to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The bill seeking to give the President the power to move the school year opening beyond August during a state of emergency is now up for Duterte's signature.