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  • In this July 6 file photo, printed modules for the Department of Education (DepEd) are put together for distribution.
    PHOTO BY Jerome Ascano

    On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, during his address to the nation, President Rodrigo Duterte gave his okay to allow limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas (or those under modified general community quarantine), as long as the schools comply with the conditions set by the Department of Education (DepEd).

    During Education Secretary Leonor Briones' presentation to the president, DepEd recognized the health risk, given the rising cases of COVID-19 cases and the effects on the economy. However, Briones stated, the advantages of having face-to-face classes are also undeniable.

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    One of the advantages Briones enumerated about face-to-face learning is it works in favor of students who do not have laptops, tablets, or smartphones and access to the Internet.

    More importantly, Briones added, it helps children learn how to interact with their peers.

    "When we teach our children, we teach them not only about facts, about knowledge, about philosophies, about history. But we teach them how to deal with fellow human beings," Briones stressed. "And that can only be attained to a great degree by face to face interaction among children, especially as they are young."

    4 conditions schools need to meet to conduct face-to-face classes

    Briones emphasized that face-to-face learning does not mean the students will go physically go to school five days a week. The kids can be required to go once or twice a week and limited to essential sessions only.


    She said "La Salle and a small school in the island of Siquijor" have already started face-to-face classes in June, and it has worked for them.

    During the presentation of her proposal to the president, Briones enumerated four conditions that schools should meet before being allowed to conduct physical classes. These include:

    1. Face-to-face classes can only be allowed in low-risk areas.

    Schools under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) may be allowed to conduct face-to-face classes, but it's still on a case-to-case basis. It's not automatic that if the area is under MGCQ, all schools will be allowed to conduct physical classes.

    2. Schools are set up to comply with the health standards, especially that of the Department of Health. 

    For example, classrooms must have physical distancing measures in place. Small classrooms may not be allowed to do physical classes, or "Kung small ang classroom, we have to adjust the number of students," Briones suggested. The school should also be in a good state of repair. 

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    3. Schools will be subjected to physical inspection before they can conduct classes

    The schools will be subject to physical inspection by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). These agencies will check how the schools will observe social distancing, the status of rooms with air-conditioning , among others.

    4. Schools have to coordinate not with DepEd but with local government units (LGUs) and health authorities.

    Local government units (LGUs) should also be ready to support the schools financially. Briones said that LGUs' Special Education Fund (SEF), a national tax that LGUs are already collecting, can be used to augment school's needs.

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    "I'm with you on this," President Duterte said. "Let's try to [be] productive even how constrictive the times are," he added.

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