The gradual shift to face-to-face classes will help the economy recover from a recession, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said as the government prepared to test new normal classrooms in January.
Months of online classes have resulted to P1.6 trillion in lost productivity for the Philippines, Chua said, citing an Asian Development Bank study. That's roughly one-third of the 2021 national budget.
Online, asynchronous and modular classes have forced some parents to quit their jobs or cut back on work hours. Young people, whose spending outside their homes on everything from fares, school projects and lunch breaks, were also grounded, Chua said.
When learning returns to the classroom under strict COVID-19 prevention measures, Chua said parents can focus on work and students can resume spending.
"I don't think there is a replacement especially for children for face-to-face learning although online learning and asynchronous learning and modular learning will help, the effectivity of that according to experts we consulted, is much less," Chua told reporters in a Zoom call.
In the classroom, "children will learn more and will become more productive," Chua said. "There will be more and more mothers and family members who will be freed up and can go back to work," he said.
"The impact will be very good but we have to do it safely thats why pina-pilot natin slowly and gradually," he said. Chua said he home schools is son in kindergarten before going to work. He said he lives near his office.
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Chua said the pace of the economic recovery from a recession will depend on the speed of the government's vaccine program.
Assuming a vaccine is available by the start of 2021 and widely distributed by the second half, gross domestic product could reverse its decline and grow by 6.5 to 7.5%, he said.
The country's pandemic task force is targeting a vaccine rollout as early as the last week of March 2021 or a year into the nationwide virus quarantines.