Pangilinan calls for pilot opening of 100 schools, instead of 1,065, for face-to-face classes

February 24, 2021

CITING the need for immediate experience to help fine-tune the reopening of face-to-face classes, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan proposes that the Department of Education (DepEd) pilot an initial 100 schools instead of the suggested 1,065.

“Kung mayroong UK variant at natatakot doon sa pagkalat, e di bawasan natin ang pilot areas, gawin nating isang daan muna. Ang importante, mayroon tayong pagkukunan ng karanasan ngayon pa lang at hindi iyong pagdating doon sa dulo saka natin gagawin dahil nakaangkla tayo sa isang libo,” Pangilinan said.

The DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in 1,065 schools, citing an internal DepEd survey that clamor is from the learners themselves. The proposal was rejected by President Rodrigo Duterte, who instead decided to go through with the reopening of classes once vaccination against Covid-19 starts.

According to DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan, 1,065 schools, or five schools per division, have been chosen for the pilot reopening.

Possible start of the dry run is now on August 2021, or 17 months after schools were closed in March of 2020.

Speaking at Wednesday’s public hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture tackling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country’s basic education system, Pangilinan stressed the importance of having experience so that the country will know what to do once school reopens.

“Baka naman pupuwedeng mayroon kayong alternative just to be able to get a system going and be able to fine-tune. Ang importante napa-pilot at nakikita iyong mga gaps so that when you expand it even to 1,065, you already have the experience of 500 or 300 to work around and to work on the necessary adjustments,” Pangilinan said.

“We need the experience now, we need the lessons drawn now because we don’t have the luxury of time,” he said.

The Philippines remains the only Southeast Asian nation that has yet to reopen schools since the global pandemic outbreak.

“Hindi na ho isang libo, 300 na lang, 200 na lang, o 100 na lang muna para lang mapag-aralan natin nang husto at ano ang magiging [epekto]. At kapag naging maganda at kapag nakita nating positibo, e di mayroon ka nang basis para magsabing mas magandang paramihin pa natin ito kasi mayroon nang proof of concept,” Pangilinan said.

In a presentation, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) citing Department of Health data shows that Covid-19 cases on children 0-19 years old comprise only 9 percent of the total cases in the country.

PPS recommends that the effects of prolonged school closure on health and development will be mitigated by reopening schools but cognizant of high standards in safety measures for everyone.

As of February 23, the Philippines has reported 564,865 cases of Covid-19.

The Senate earlier passed on third reading Senate Bill 2057 that will expedite the procurement and administration of Covid-19 vaccines.