Millions of Filipino students returned to virtual classrooms for the second straight school year on Monday, making the Philippines the only country in Asia and one of two in the world aside from Venezuela to keep learners off campus during the pandemic.
The Department of Education said 24,603,822 learners have enrolled for academic year 2021-2022 in public and private schools. The ministry said it would extend enrollment until Sept. 30 to cater to students who have yet to register.
"The challenges we are facing now are even tougher than those we battled last year," DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones said.
With in-person classes still prohibited, blended learning will remain as the mode of education for the second straight year. This means that students will keep on using online tools, printed modules, and television and radio instruction for their studies.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list on Monday criticized the DepEd for the supposed lack of plans on how to safely reopen schools, noting that the Philippines is one of the two remaining countries in the world -- the other being Valenzuela -- that have not reopened schools since the start of the pandemic last year.
"Walang plano kung kailan at paano ligtas na mabubuksan ang mga ito. Biktima ng kapalpakan ng gobyernong Duterte ang edukasyon at kinabukasan ng milyun-milyong kabataang Pilipino. Pasan-pasan ng mga guro, bata at magulang ang bigat ng kapabayaan," it said in a statement.
Malacañang earlier said the government was studying how to safely reopen schools starting with those in areas at low risk of COVID-19.
School year 2021-2022 is scheduled to end on June 24, 2022.