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First 100 days: PH recoups learning loss with in-person classes

MANILA – Bringing all the children and youth back to school, securing catch-up learning, and support for teachers are included in the most vital call of the international community to address learning loss following the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Knowing the urgency of this call, Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, the concurrent chief of the Department of Education (DepEd) pushed for a gradual transition to safe face-to-face learning starting Aug. 22.

“Ang pinakamahalaga na masasabi ko na nagawa natin as a country is naibalik natin ‘yung ating in-person classes sa ating mga eskwelahan. Napakahalaga na nabalik natin ang option na mag-conduct ng five-day in-person classes dahil nakita rin nila na mas napapadali ang pagtuturo (The most important thing that we have done as a nation is we were able to bring back in-person classes in our schools. It is very important to have the option of five-day, in-person classes, because we see that it makes teaching easier),” she said.

Before she stepped into office, the Philippines was among the very few countries which continued distance learning mode, with schools closed for face-to-face setup for two years.

In a statement released in August last year, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said that the “right to learn” of over 27 million Filipino learners was affected.

“The associated consequences of school closures – learning loss, mental distress, missed vaccinations, and heightened risk of drop out, child labor, and child marriage – will be felt by many children, especially the youngest learners in critical development stages,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said.

Crucially addressing the “learning gaps”, the DepEd recognized it needed a whole-of-nation approach to realize bringing kids physically back to school.

“Everyone is in agreement that there was really a need to bring our learners back to school, kahit nga po nasa transition period pa tayo sa ngayon… The DepEd cannot really do (this) alone, our private sector organizations really helped, even our partner agencies,” DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa told the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

The DepEd was able to breach its target enrollment of 28.6 million for the school year 2022-2023.

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