Students returning to school when face-to-face classes resume do not need to be vaccinated, as Vice President Sara Duterte ordered all schools in the country to make the shift by November 2.
Issuing her first order as concurrent education secretary, Duterte told reporters in an ambush interview on Thursday (July 14) that there were no preconditions set for the return of students to the traditional mode of learning.
According to Rappler, Duterte said, “There should be no segregation, no discrimination for the unvaccinated learners because vaccination is not mandatory and we don’t see any problem with co-mingling of students inside classroom. Because when outside, in their respective houses, in malls, in churches, and in public transportation, students are co-mingling whether vaccinated or not.”
Duterte added that physical distancing will be implemented "whenever possible", while no class size has set for each classroom. "Hindi po kami naglagay ng exact size ng class dahil iba-iba po ‘yung situation ng lahat ng mga schools natin. There are no schools na pare-pareho sila exactly sa kanilang classrooms and sa kanilang teacher."
(We didn’t put the exact class size because every school is different. There are no the same schools in terms of classroom facility and number of teachers.)
"Unwell” students or those diagnosed with COVID-19 can be exempted. And with classroom shortages a problem even before the pandemic, Duterte added that more classrooms would be built to address overcrowded classrooms.
Minority of students vaccinated
Duterte said it was high time to resume to in-person classes because COVID-19 vaccines are now widely available, while Filipinos are already familiar with basic health protocols.
More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the Philippines is one of few countries in the world where schools have not fully opened for in-person classes. About 25,786 schools are now teaching students face-to-face, as of April 22
There are an estimated 60,000 public and private schools in the country. Some 28 million basic education students enrolled in the recently concluded school year 2021 to 2022.
However, only 9.6 million adolescents, along with 3.7 million children, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 60 per cent of the 110 million people in the Philippines are vaccinated.
The coronavirus has so far infected over 3.7 million and killed 60,000 people in the country.
Distance learning is not enough
Studies show that students are “learning less” under the distance learning setup.
Data from the World Bank said that the Philippines’ learning-adjusted years of school (LAYS) would be pushed back from 7.5 years pre-pandemic, to 5.9 to 6.5 years. This means that while the length of the Philippine basic education system is 12 years, Filipino students show proficiency equivalent to only around six years spent in school.
Factors affecting this include the length of further school closures and the effectiveness of the remote learning setup.