MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected the proposal for physical classes to resume even as groups are calling for making the safe return to classrooms a priority.
Classes in the Philippines began in October 2020 but has been entirely carried out through remote methods. The previous months, however, have seen teachers and students struggling to adapt to distance learning, on top of already at least two million who opted to forego this school year.
In a regular briefing on Monday, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte phoned him last night and said in-person learning might resume by August, when hopefully, vaccinations in the country are underway.
Roque said face-to-face classes may be allowed then "especially in areas where the COVID-19 cases are low."
As it is, the fate of physical classes' resumption is largely dependent on the jabs, but the program is facing significant delays, with the first doses seen to come by late February or by March.
A planned pilot run for face-to-face classes in more than a thousand schools was shelved by the president amid the threat of the more infectious variant of the coronavirus.
The development comes on the heels of a survey by a group within the education sector that showed 70.9% of 1,395 teachers doubtful that their students are able to grasp what is being taught to them under the present setup.
From the figure, some 54% also said that a "definite portion" of their class was lagging behind in just the first quarter of the school year, while only 4% of them said their students are able to keep up.
Groups have pressed the administration to make the safe return of children to schools a priority, with vaccine-related progress as well as the easing of more restrictions.
In the Senate, members have questioned why most of the restrictions — including the allowing of cinemas and video game arcades — were now being relaxed when schools remained shut. Only recently, Rep. Roman Romulo (Pasig) who chairs the House education committee, suggested that the education department form a panel of science and medical experts for the move.
DepEd officials have yet to comment on Duterte's latest decision, including on whether they will make an appeal.