Face to Face Learning: resume or Suspend?

By: Carmela G. Reyes
President Rodrigo Duterte approved last year the conduct of a pilot test on face-to-face classes supposedly in January this year. As recalled, all face-to-face classes were suspended because of the threat of Corona virus. With the progress in the development of a vaccine against the virus, and with the effective health protocols in place, the resumption of face-to-face classes was considered. However, the President retracted his approval of the pilot test and resorted back to online and/or flexible learning. The face-to-face learning amidst this pandemic has three different positions- those who agree, those who oppose and those who are disinterested.

The camp of those who are in favor of the face-to-face interaction argue that actual interaction with the teacher in the classroom is still the best way to learn. This way, teachers can provide the maximum guidance to the learners. On the other hand, the learners can raise all their questions as often and as long as they can. Moreover, government officials and a group of teachers are positive that as long as all health protocols are followed, the transmission of the virus can be contained and the learners’ going to school will not contribute to the rise in the number of cases. Senator Gatchalian, one of the advocates of the resumption of face-to-face learning, even used a study conducted in the United States of America as support of his position. According to the study, there was not enough evidence to show that the children’s going to school aggravated the situation or increased the number of Covid-19 cases. In fact, there were very few cases of transmissions in schools during the nine-week duration of the study. Gatchalian further argued that since children are allowed to go out in some areas, it would be better and more productive if they go to school and learn.

With the emergence of the UK variant of the virus, President Duterte changed his mind and took back his decision to allow the pilot testing that was supposed to have taken place last January of this year. Other parents are also against the plan to resume the in-class interaction as they are worried that this might put their children to a greater risk of transmission. They feel more at ease when they see their children at the comfort of their homes. This way, they do not have to worry that their child may socialize with persons infected by the virus. Those who belong to this group mostly live in the rural areas where there are many cases of transmission. That is why they are taking all precautionary measures in order not to get infected, especially their kids. They are worried enough because of the Chinese variant of the virus. The emergence of the UK variant (and perhaps other variants) has doubled the worry of the world. Besides, they have adjusted already to the flexible learning scheme being implemented by the government.

Another group that can be considered in the issue are those disinterested individuals who just wait for the government’s pronouncement for them to abide by it. These people go along with the flow of the majority. Whether there are going to be face-to-face class or none doesn’t really matter to them. At times, they prefer that classes are totally suspended so that they don’t have to worry about the requirements in school. The kids who belong to this group often play outside their houses and work on their school requirements when they feel like doing it.

Truly, Covid-19 is a threat to be reckoned with. Other variants are being discovered. This entails a conduct of more researches in order to produce more vaccines. Research companies were able to produce vaccines but they are not yet available worldwide. While many are happy that a vaccine is finally available, a lot of people are also hesitant to try the said vaccines since they are afraid of the side effects. Filipinos have the same reactions. Some are excited about the vaccine, some are doubtful and hesitant, and some don’t care because they think that they can’t afford the vaccine anyway. In the education sector, those who oppose the resumption of face-to-face interaction will not change their mind. Whatever is the decision of the government, the two opposing sides have the best interest of the learners in mind. It is a sad reality that the virus is here to stay and whatever is the best way to deal with it depends on many people and a lot of factors.

Filipinos are not foreign to challenges. It may be difficult to hurdle the mountain of difficulty at first but we don’t give up. On the same note, this COVID-19 is just one of those difficulties that we need to overcome. Surely this does not stop us from moving forward. This does not stop teaching and learning that is why whatever the final decision will be, teachers and students are being prepared. And prepared we will be!