An advocacy group championing consumer rights urged the Department of Education to allow private schools the discretion, upon consultation with parents, to continue blended learning beyond the Department of Education-mandated deadline of October 31.
“We go back to that adage, ‘parents know best,’” said Patrick Climaco, secretary-general of Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada, Kuryente (BK3).
“We are aware that parents of these students have misgivings about a complete return to face-to-face mode, and that their reasons are perfectly valid and understandable,” he added.
Climaco said the number of new COVID cases is on the rise, and there is no guarantee that the measures undertaken by schools for a safe return would prevent another surge.
The Department of Health earlier admitted outbreaks are to be expected once in-person classes resume.
“Young children, specifically, have been so eager to go out of the confines of their homes and may not be as careful or mindful of health protocol,” he said.
Climaco also cited the health risks faced by teachers and administrators, especially since some of them may be older or may have co-morbidities and other health issues.
“More flexibility is needed for schools to ensure the safest learning environment for students and their personnel,” he said.
“A regular classroom cannot accommodate 40 students and have them seated at safe distances. As it is the health of their children that are at risk, there must be consultation with parents. After all, it is the teachers, school officials and parents who know the situation firsthand. We must listen to them,” Climaco added.
Department Order 34 of the Department of Education, signed by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio, requires all public and private schools to return to 100-percent face-to-face learning mode by November 2 this year.
The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA) wanted the option to continue providing blended learning to their students beyond this date, citing a host of reasons ranging from the continued threat posed by COVID-19, the state of public transportation, to the disparate capacities of schools, in term of facilities, to receive returning students.
“In a crucial matter such as the balancing of education and health priorities, flexibility and openness are key. Of course, the ideal scenario is for all children to be able to go to their schools just the way they did before the pandemic,” said Climaco.
He said while some schools demonstrated readiness to welcome students back with the requisite physical distancing and other safety measures, other schools simply do not have this capacity.
“This may simply contribute to parents’ anxieties about their children rejoining an outside world that is a little more unsafe,” he said.