MORE THAN 18 million students are expected to start virtual classes next month as the Department of Education adopts blended and distance learning, the presidential palace said on Monday.
Of 18.2 million enrollees, 17.4 million were public school students, Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque said at an online news briefing.
Enrollment will end on July 15.
The new academic year starts on Aug. 24, but students must stay home in the absence of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
The Education department will enforce blended learning strategies so students can learn without going to school. Teachers will provide printed learning modules that can be delivered to students’ homes.
Students may also choose to answer electronic documents online.
Education officials earlier said less than half of the country’s 800,000 public school teachers had been trained for distance learning amid a coronavirus pandemic, leading senators to question the school system’s readiness to start online classes in August.
Some senators also criticized the agency for failing to map out areas where different learning methods would be used.
Education officials said they were still gathering data for the mapping through a poll that students and their parents answer during enrollment.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said face-to-face classes won’t start until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that has sickened more than 44,000 and killed about 1,300 people in the Philippines is found.
She took her cue from President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who has said he wouldn’t allow classes to open without a vaccine given the risk of an outbreak in schools.
Mr. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.
He extended the quarantine for the island twice and thrice for the capital region. The lockdown in Metro Manila has since been eased, but mass gatherings across the nation remained banned.
The Philippines has four levels of lockdowns — enhanced, modified enhanced, general and modified general community quarantine.
Mr. Roque said parents should still send their children to school despite the pandemic. — Gillian M. Cortez