If we're to believe the country's top education officials, it's all systems go for school year 2020-2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Prospero de Vera and Education Secretary Leonor Briones took the podium during President Rodrigo Duterte's regular COVID-19 briefing late Wednesday night.
De Vera, for his part, recommended splitting the curriculum and prioritizing theoretical subjects in the first part of the academic year.
"Uutusan natin ang mga universities na lahat ng subjects na may lab, OJT (on-the-job training), internship, etc. i-reschedule nila sa second semester," he explained. "So the options will be from the more open, limited face-to-face in low-risk MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) areas."
De Vera also made the unfortunate revelation that several private schools have already informed CHED about closing down due to low enrollment numbers.
The remaining educational institutions will follow safety protocols before reopening, according to COVID-19 response chief implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr.: "In support of CHED, may mga schools na may kaya ang pamilya, iche-check sila ng PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. Di muna sila aalis sa dormitory for a period of time.
"Bago tayo magbukas ng schools, dapat makita natin ang re-engineering, mga protections, mga dapat at hindi dapat gawin, at mga configurations sa pagpasok at paglabas."
On the other hand, Briones said the Department of Education has always stood firm on its decision to resume classes on August 24, "whatever form it is."
"Kasi pwedeng mag-online, pwedeng mag-offline, pwedeng radio, pwedeng television. Kung all of the above wala, meron tayong tinatawag na IBM or It's Better Manual," she continued.
The education secretary even noted how most nations in Southeast Asia have implemented blended learning and few face-to-face classes. In the case of the Philippines, school-level learning resources will be distributed by local government units to each household.
In the event that schools reopen, Briones stressed the importance of having water supply in the vicinity so students can wash their hands regularly. Plans to limit classrooms to 10 students and install plastic shields between them like in Thailand are also being considered, Galvez added.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases will finalize these proposals.
If anything, "Ang epekto ng pagbulusok ng economy ay enrollment, dahil kung ang parents walang trabaho, yun ang inaasikaso," Briones ended.