Gatchalian: Bad idea to postpone school opening
MANILA, Philippines — While he thinks the Aug. 24 opening of schools can be adjusted if it is still not safe to return at that time, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian bucked the proposal to suspend classes altogether until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found.
Gatchalian, who heads the basic education committee in the Senate, said postponing classes until a vaccine is found was “antipoor” and would make public school students fall behind their private school counterparts.
At least two lawmakers have called for the postponement of the school opening until a vaccine is available for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
They said people should play it safe when it comes to children’s welfare, especially since classes tend to be big and classrooms crowded, making physical distancing unlikely.
Online learning is not reliable as well since telecommunications signals are spotty, the legislators said.
Gatchalian, however, pointed out that rich students would be able to study in international schools that offer online classes.
On the other hand, those in public schools will be stuck at home, he said.
“Postponing classes and not doing anything will leave our poor students left behind. They will really fall back. We already had low scores in the [Program for International Student Assessment], and now they would be left behind,” he said in a television interview.
The results of the assessment late last year, as conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, showed that Filipino students ranked lowest among students from 79 countries in reading comprehension and second-lowest in mathematical and scientific literacy.
Gatchalian said it might be too late for some students if schools would reopen only after a vaccine is found.
The government must innovate to find ways for students to continue their education, he said, adding that the Department of Education is starting to do this.
“So it’s a bad idea to completely postpone school. We can still continue to teach using innovative methods and this is using TV, radio and using other forms,” he said.
Other countries are looking for ways to adjust and continue educational programs, he said.
On Panay Island, however, several officials are calling for the postponement of school opening to next year.
The League of Municipalities of the Philippines Antique Chapter and the province’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases have asked the Department of Education to postpone school opening to January 2021.
“No parent would want their children to go back to school while there is still no vaccine [for COVID-19),” Antique Gov. Rhodora Cadiao told the Inquirer.
Cadiao also pointed out that some classrooms were being used as isolation centers for returning overseas Filipino workers and for about 2,000 sacadas (seasonal sugarcane workers) from Negros Occidental.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas also wrote to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, appealing for postponement.
Treñas said in his letter that opening classes on Aug. 24 “may limit the effectiveness of the measures implemented by the Iloilo City government and [by the] national government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Considering the natural instinct to play and socialize [among] children, there might be difficulty in imposing stringent [physical] distancing measures among these children during recess and immediately before and after classes,” he said.
Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. earlier said the health and safety of students should be given priority and thus delaying school opening was acceptable.
—REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND NESTOR P. BURGOS JR.
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