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  • How Schools In Japan Are Kept COVID-Free To Keep Face-To-Face Classes Going

    Strict safety measures are maintained so schools can stay open.
    by Fatima Castillo .
How Schools In Japan Are Kept COVID-Free To Keep Face-To-Face Classes Going
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/akiyoko
  • The Philippines and Venezuela are the last countries in the world to resume face-to-face classes. This will change soon as President Rodrigo Duterte recently approved the Department of Education's (DepEd) pilot implementation of face-to-face classes in at least 100 public schools in the Philippines. 

    DepEd has worked with the Department of Health (DOH) to set a criteria and determine which areas in the Philippines have a minimal risk of spreading COVID-19. Selected schools must pass the safety assessment using DepEd’s school safety assessment tool, and must have the support of the local government unit (LGU) with a form of resolution or letter of support. Parents of students partaking in the experiment must also provide a letter of consent that they agree to send their child to school.

    According to the DepEd, the pilot run will prioritize Kindergarten to Grade 3 levels upon consultation with the (DOH) and other medical experts. 

    How schools in Japan are kept open despite the pandemic

    Ever since the announcement, parents cannot help but express their worry about the pilot run, despite DepEd's assurance that the schools have a solid plan to keep their students safe. They were especially worried after hearing the news that COVID-19 vaccination will not be required of the teachers.

    Education should be the utmost priority for every country, but how can schools stay open when there is a pandemic? In Japan, strict safety measures are maintained to make it possible.

    In an article by Japan Times, Principal Mio Sato of Funabori Elementary School, one of the largest public elementary schools in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward shared the guidelines set by their education ministry.

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    Social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing practices are made essential.

    Blue tarps are spread out near the entrance to expand the shoe-changing area, where students take off their shoes to switch to indoor slippers, a common practice in Japan to avoid dirt on campus floors.

    Every morning, pupils are required to pass their daily record of temperature to the teachers. If the pupil has forgotten to do so, teachers take their temperature on the spot.

    Windows remain open for ventilation, whether it is summer or winter.

    Classroom desks are placed 1 meter apart from each other. Having 760 students, it was a difficult feat to achieve, but it is necessary for curating a healthy environment.

    Any group activity or group collaboration is restricted to individual works. Reading books should be done silently.

    Masks should be worn at all times, especially during PE classes which involve running and practicing gymnastics using vaulting boxes.

    Spreading arms apart while lining up for the vaulting boxes to avoid physical contact and to avoid cramped spaces.

    Children used to gather their seats in circles to socialize. But now, during their 45-minute lunch break, children should be facing one direction and focus on finishing lunch rather than talking to one another. The policy is called mokushoku or silent eating.

    They are also instructed to spend time indoors instead of playing outside between classes, to maintain distance and silence.

    Teachers and students should always disinfect door knobs, electric switches, and other daily-used materials to prevent passing germs to the next users.

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    Students are banned from singing aloud and using flutes or any other instrument that involves mouths. Instead, they are to clap, stomp, and use drums and stringed instruments only.

    While it is their annual tradition to send off graduating students by performing the theme song of a popular anime series, “Lupin the Third”, in the gymnasium, the school improvised by turning the school courtyard into an outdoor music hall. The audience is spread out on each floor to listen to the sixth grader performers below them.

    This doesn't mean, however, that things are easier for teachers and students. "It's really been exhausting," shared one teacher to Japan Times.

    “Before the pandemic, kids could be counted on to look after each other, so I would sometimes ask them to tackle an assignment together and submit their work as a team,” Sato said. “But now, everyone is on their own, so it’s becoming more like me versus 33 kids.”

    It is also saddening that the younger kids can no longer interact with their peers. “They are still little, so they mostly do whatever they’re told to do, but sometimes they just become careless and start hugging or touching each other. It’s at moments like this that I need to tell them to stop — I feel sorry for them, though,” shared one teacher.

    Click here to know how the Japanese get their kids ready for any emergency.

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