December 10, 2022

The encouraging environment created by the downtrend in Covid-19 cases in the latter months of 2021 is hoped to be sustained and finally benefit the education sector, which was adversely impacted by the pandemic.
Like in 2020, last year remained a challenging year for teachers and learners from the basic education to higher educational institutions (HEIs) as schools remained closed for face-to-face or in-person classes.
The gradual reopening of some HEIs in August last year was a welcome respite, but nevertheless did not cure the students’ longing to enter their physical classrooms and interact with their professors and classmates as the in-person classes were limited to those taking up health-related degree programs.
In August last year, the Commission on Higher Education-Cordillera allowed 12 HEIs offering Bachelor of Science in Nursing and programs in Midwifery to hold limited in-person classes. These are Benguet State University, Baguio Central University, Cordillera Career Development College, Easter College, Ifugao State University, Kalinga State University, Pines City Colleges (PCC), Saint Louis University (SLU), Benguet Vocational School, University of Baguio (UB), University of the Cordilleras, and Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC).
CHED also allowed limited in-person classes for other programs such as BS in Physical Therapy, BS in Medical Laboratory Science, and Doctor of Dental Medicine for PCC and Doctor of Medicine and BS in Medical Laboratory Science for SLU.
UB was also authorized to hold limited in-person classes for its BS in Physical Therapy, BS in Medical Laboratory Science, and Doctor of Dental Medicine.
These HEIs were allowed to hold in-person classes subject to strict compliance with the guidelines issued by the CHED and Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19 to ensure students safety.
As early as April 2021, CHED has already allowed Baguio universities with medical programs to hold classes for courses that required students’ physical participation.
In November, college students, mainly from SLU, amplified what learners were silently battling against when they initiated a candle lighting ceremony and called for an “academic break” – exhaustion.
The students succeeded in making their voice heard when the city government called on education stakeholders for a dialogue to address the former’s concerns.
The city government, however, did not accede to the students’ request for a resumption of in-person classes, as Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong said it was still risky to open schools because of the threat of the Delta variant.
In the basic education, the Department of Education has implemented the test run of limited in-person classes to select schools nationwide on Nov. 15.
Twenty elementary and secondary schools in the Cordillera, mostly located in far-flung communities with a small number of learners, were allowed to hold in-person classes.
In-person classes in the region started on Nov. 29, 2021.
Of those that applied, Mountain Province had the highest number of schools approved with nine, followed by Tabuk City in Kalinga with three, and two each from Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, and Kalinga.
The DepEd has limited the in-person classes to Kindergarten to grade 3 on the premise that learners in these grade levels are in their formative years and need more guidance from their teachers.
For the senior high school, those allowed to participate in the in-person classes are those enrolled in the technical-vocational track since some of their subjects require hands-on training.
More than 100 schools in the region have applied for the pilot run of the in-person classes, but only the 20 schools passed the criteria set by the IATF, DepEd, and the DOH, which include among other things, the low-risk classification of the provinces the schools are located.
No school in Baguio City and Apayao participated in the pilot test, as the city and the province were still under alert level 3 at the time.
In December, however, DepEd-Baguio City Schools Division recommended to the local IATF four schools for in-person classes for 2022.
These are the Santo Tomas Elementary School, Mil-An National High School, Happy Hallow NHS, and the Baguio City National Science High School.
The DepEd concluded the pilot run of limited in-person classes in December, earlier than the Jan. 31 schedule.
Nationwide, 100 elementary and secondary schools initially participated in the pilot run of in-person classes on Nov. 15, but the number increased to 287 when more public and private schools joined.
There are more than 60,000 public and private basic education schools in the country, according to DepEd data.
As the test run for the in-person classes wound up in December, DepEd officials expressed hopes more schools will join the expansion phase this year.
DepEd Asec. Malcolm Garma was quoted as saying the best practices during the pilot run of in-person classes would be adopted in the “new normal” of classroom learning in the country.
The increasing number of people, including minors, who are getting fully vaccinated and having their booster shots against the Covid-19 and the downtrend in cases are expected to contribute to the factors that will gradually allow learners and educators to finally meet and interact in physical classrooms. – Jane B. Cadalig