Briones makes new push for face-to-face classes

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    EDUCATION Secretary Leonor Briones yesterday said a recent survey by the department showed that more than 50 percent of school children want to return to face-to-face classes while “a significant portion of parents” are undecided if they would agree to let their kids return to school or not.

    The country was supposed to hold a pilot test of face-to-face classes in areas with little to no confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) last January but the program was postponed due to the presence of the new variant of the deadly virus.

    She said the pilot testing would again be discussed in the Cabinet meeting next week, adding the Philippines remains the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to resume face-to-face classes.

    Briones said based on her talks with representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), face-to-face classes in other parts of Southeast Asia have not fully resumed but have been limited to a certain period like one to two hours a week to as much as two days a week.

    Briones said she has been receiving messages and feedback both from students and parents that they “really want the teachers to teach them” and that the students have already missed their teachers, classmates and school.

    Classes in public school for the school year 2020-2021 started on October 5, 2020, while classes in private schools started on August 6, 2020.

    To complete the 10-month school year requirement, students would be required to attend classes during the summer period, which is usually the vacation period for students.

    Briones said that poor internet service and electricity remains a challenge to the distance learning program, especially in remote areas and “Last Mile schools” or those located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged and conflict-affected areas (GIDCA).

    She said that while there have been donations for some gadgets, without electricity and internet, they cannot be used by students.