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Cordillera eyeing limited physical classes to cut costs

/ 05:04 AM July 07, 2022
Empty classroom stock photo. STORY: Cordillera eyeing limited physical classes to cut costs

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BAGUIO CITY, Benguet — Cordillera students will experience in-person classes in the next school year, but there will be no daily sessions given the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic as well as the impact of rising prices on basic goods and fuel, the Department of Education (DepEd) said on Wednesday.

“More than 40,000 K-12 (Kindergarten to Grade 12) pupils in the region will have to take turns so each of them will have a chance to attend physical lectures for three days a week and spend the remaining two days with homework to avoid crowding classrooms,” said Estela Cariño, DepEd Cordillera director.

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4-day work week

Malacañang is eyeing November as the month when all pupils can resume classroom lessons after two years of distance learning due to health restrictions, President Marcos said in his first Cabinet meeting on Monday.

But this is conditioned on the status of COVID infections which have slowly risen in the country, as well as the rate of vaccination for students, which remains low.

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Because some schools are far from community centers and workplaces in the Cordillera, the commute alone may become too expensive for teachers and students each month as fuel prices continue to rise, Cariño said during the first of a series of Regional Development Council briefings in the run-up to the State of the Region Address on July 28.

Cariño said DepEd is preparing to switch to a four-day work week to reduce expenses of both teachers and students.

“We will have to retain some of the [distance learning] modalities,” Cariño said.

Early enrollment figures for school year 2022-2023 in the Cordillera totaled 85,055 as of May 5, “and will grow bigger,” Cariño said.

Last school term (2021-2022), 430,924 pupils in kindergarten, grade school, junior high school and senior high school were enrolled in the region. Teachers taught them through a mix of home-based workbooks and lessons delivered online or through television and radio broadcasts.

In March, 740 public and private schools in the Cordillera were cleared to hold limited in-person classes for more than 150,000 students.

Vaccination

But only 29.13 percent (72,754) of the region’s targeted 249,754 pediatric population (5 to 11 years old) had been fully vaccinated as of July 4, said Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, assistant Cordillera director and spokesperson of the Department of Health, at the same forum.

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Meanwhile, 38,851 adolescents (12 to 17 years old) who may be enrolled in high school still require a jab, she said, after 78.84 percent (162,242) of the targeted 207,044 teen population completed their vaccine shots as of July 4.

Only Abra province has exceeded its teen vaccination target, Pangilinan said.

Universities and colleges in Baguio and the provinces of Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga and its capital city, Tabuk, have also begun returning to in-person classes in phases. Menzie Kuengan, acting chief education program specialist of the Commission on Higher Education in the region, said 112,518 college students were enrolled in 2021, and at least 61 percent of which were women who took nursing, secondary education, medical laboratory sciences, accountancy and agriculture.

In March, 10,032 students graduated from colleges and universities in the region, Kuengan said.

—VINCENT CABREZA

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TAGS: COVID-19 pandemic, DepEd Cordillera, fuel prices, in-person classes
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