Physical distancing in schools may be relaxed in August

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE GOVERNMENT might ease physical distancing rules in schools holding limited face-to-face classes this school year in areas under the lowest coronavirus alert level, according to Philippine health authorities.

This would allow educational institutions to admit more students attending schools physically, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan told a televised news briefing on Monday.

“There’s a limitation now on the number of students that we can accommodate in a classroom so they can observe the physical distancing requirement,” he said in Filipino. “In the next school year, physical distancing can be relaxed if a school is in an area under Alert Level 1, according to the new protocol issued by the Department of Health (DoH).”

Mr. Malaluan said the Department of Education (DepEd) is crafting guidelines for learning in the next school year, including blended learning.

“The extent [of blended learning] will be contained in the guidelines — how many days will be face-to-face and how many will be allowed for remote learning,” he added.

Schools now know how to deal with a potential surge in coronavirus infections and a higher alert level that goes with it, Mr. Malaluan said.

Only schools under Alert Levels 1 and 2 may hold physical classes in basic education.

“It really works like our storm signal,” he said. “Our schools know the protocols for each of these alert levels.”

Schools will open on Aug. 22.

Meanwhile, incoming Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio said President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. had asked her to review the country’s K-12 educational system.

“He already gave instructions with regard to the review of the implementation of the K-12 program of the Department of Education,” she separately told a televised news briefing. K-12, enacted in 2012, cannot be decided overnight, she added.

Some civic groups pushing for the abolition of K-12 earlier said the “congested curriculum” was a failure.

Ms. Duterte-Carpio also expressed hope that policymakers would push the revival of a mandatory training program for Filipino students.

“The Executive and legislative agenda will be decided between the president and Congress so I hope that will be included since there are many pending bills in Congress with regard to that,” she said.

The program was abolished in 2002 after the death of a university student who exposed the anomalies in the training corps.

Investigations led by Congress showed that the program had enabled implementers to commit abuses in schools.

Raymond Basilio, secretary-general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, urged Ms. Duterte-Carpio to address the “problem of learning loss, learning poverty and the quality of and access to education” instead of reviving the mandatory military training for students. — Norman P. Aquino and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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