Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday recommended that face-to-face classes for students should be considered in areas with low risk of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infection and those with limited digital capacity.
Alvarez, a former House Speaker, said traditional classes may be more effective and a practical option for certain areas in the country, noting that a nuanced and area-specific approach is the” best and realistic way forward”.
“Areas with no cases of Covid-19 should consider regular classes. Areas with little to no background when it comes to the digital era should learn about these modern tools, build capacities with the help and support from the government (and the private sector) and gradually – but steadily – shift to the digital age,” he said.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has set the opening of classes for the school year 2020-2021 on August 24.
However, it announced that no face-to-face classes will be done until a vaccine for the Covid-19 is available, in compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order.
Meanwhile, the groundwork for “blended learning” is underway, which would make use of radio, television, online, and modular learning — currently being prepared and updated by the DepEd this year.
“Make no mistake about it, the threat of Covid-19 is real, but so is the threat to the education and development of our students, most especially the poor and marginalized. Their education, which is essential for holistic personal development and expanded opportunities later on in life, must also be protected,” Alvarez said.
“If we do not adopt an area-specific solution to the problems that we presently face, a more promising future for our students will tragically be part of Covid-19’s collateral damage,” he added.
Alvarez noted that while the online and broadcast materials proposed by DepEd may be helpful, these are not “easily available” for many teachers, students, and families.
He said another issue to consider is the teachers’ and students’ familiarization with new technological tools given the sudden shift to the digital age.
“After all, not everyone has the means to purchase a laptop, a tablet, and other digital devices. Not everyone has access to – or can afford – internet connection. As a matter of fact, there are Filipino families who do not even have radios or televisions at home. This is the reality we cannot ignore,” he said.
“Yes, some areas must adopt a distance learning program given the risk of face-to-face classes. Yes, we have to continue shifting to the digital age as a necessity. However, we have to balance these aspirations with on-the-ground realities,” he added.
He said a multi-pronged approach is necessary for more responsive and effective government action, rather than a one size fits all prescription, indifferent to the unique context and situation of various areas in the country.
“A nuanced approach, instead of a one size fits all policy will help us better realize our collective objective: no student should be left behind,” he said.
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