Press Release
March 2, 2021

Senate President Vicente Sotto III
Sponsorship Speech on SRN 663: Reopening of Schools for Face-to-Face Classes

This global pandemic has taught us a lot of things, which include resiliency and our ability to adapt, as it has brought drastic and continuing changes in our society - which include our education systems. Education systems around the globe adopted distance learning modalities to protect the students from the virus and to prevent its further spread.

However, only few months after the COVID-19 was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, many countries had already started reopening their schools and resumed face-to-face classes. In fact, according to a UNICEF report, the Philippines is one of the 14 countries out of the 150 and the only country in South East Asia that maintained total school closure since the beginning of the pandemic. While the COVID-19 situation during the inception of the blended learning scheme has relatively been properly addressed and considering as well that almost one year has passed since the time lockdowns have been implemented all over the country, it is apt that a system adaptive to this change should be made.

Furthermore, as provided in the "UNICEF's Framework for Re-opening of Schools," the adverse effects of school closures on children's safety, wellbeing and learning are well documented. Interrupting education services also has serious, long-term consequences for economies and societies such as increased inequality, poorer health outcomes, and reduced social cohesion.

Disruptions to instructional time in the classroom can have a severe impact on a child's ability to learn. The longer marginalized children are out of school, the less likely they are to return. Children from the poorest households are already almost five times more likely to be out of primary school than those from the richest. Being out of school also increases the risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, child marriage, violence and other threats. Further, prolonged closures disrupt essential school-based services such as immunization, school feeding, and mental health and psychosocial support, and can cause stress and anxiety due to the loss of peer interaction and disrupted routines.

When select schools have been identified for reopening, six key dimensions should be used to assess their states of readiness and inform planning: policy, financing, safe operations, learning, reaching the most marginalized and wellbeing/protection.

Distance learning has its advantages especially at a time of pandemic where health and safety are of utmost priority. However, face-to-face learning remains a necessity for education. This was also the recommendation of our very own Secretary Leonor Briones last December. It is important to consider that not all household have the same resources and access to internet. Moreover, allowing teachers to see their students face-to-face, even on an intermittent schedule, will enable greater opportunities to check on the learning progress of the students and to provide needed instructional supervision and interventions. Likewise, the customary face-to-face classes prevent gaps and remove the inequality between those students who can afford an affective remote education and those in the marginalized sector. We need to get back on track, not only for our economy but also for our education system.

Thus, I move for the adoption of proposed Senate Resolution No. 663.

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