Attached herewith is DepEd-DOH Joint Memorandum Circular No. 3, s. 2021 dated September 27, 2021 on the Operational Guidelines on the Implementation of Limited Face-to-Face Learning Modality.
Table of Contents
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has greatly affected all sectors of society. This public health crisis has compelled countries around the world to revisit their education systems and adopt the most appropriate delivery modalities for their learners. In response to this, one of the key responses in the Philippines was the nationwide closure of all learning institutions in the hopes of preventing schools from becoming centers for COVID-19 case clustering. Furthermore, this pandemic brought about the massive implementation of alternative learning methods through distance learning modalities. While this facilitated learning continuity and maximized the implementation of distance learning modalities, there are major challenges in the teaching and learning process affecting adjustment and development of learners.
In the Framework for reopening schools (UNESCO, UNICEF, WB, WFP, UNHCR, June 2020) it states, “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 child trafficking, online and offline sexual abuse and exploitation of children (e.g., rape, OSAEC, etc.), teenage pregnancies, child marriages, violence and other threats. Further, prolonged closures disrupt essential school-based services such as immunization, school feeding, mental health and psychosocial support, which can cause and further aggravate stress and anxiety due to the loss of peer interaction and disrupted routines.”
Similarly, UNESCO reiterates that remote learning has been particularly challenging for elementary school students as they need a level of guidance, social interaction, and tactile learning opportunities that are difficult to replicate in an online classroom. This in turn, has been particularly devastating for working parents and guardians, particularly mothers. UNESCO warns that societal consequences could be profound, forcing women to reduce their hours or leave their jobs and possibly delay the economic recovery. Other parents simply cannot afford to quit their jobs and may feel forced to leave their young children in unsafe situations.
Furthermore, UNESCO cited that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for determining the optimal model for learning in the COVID-19 crisis. From the analysis and data tracked by UNESCO and NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association), certain groups of students have suffered greater setbacks and will continue to face more obstacles in remote-learning environments. Many of these students struggle to thrive in a remote environment where they lack hand-on guidance, emotional support, and access to technology. Hence, they suggested that in areas where disease transmission is under control and administrators can resume physical classes, these students need to take priority. It was emphasized that opening school need not be an all-or-nothing proposition. Since remote learning is especially tough on students who also have to deal with challenges such as learning disabilities, economic hardship, or unstable home environments, resources should primarily focus on them.
With the approval of the President, these challenges will be addressed through the reintroduction of face-to-face classes where such can be made consistent with the public health standards of the government in light of COVID-19. In preparation for eventual school reopening and/or blended learning, caution must be observed, and extensive planning should be undertaken to prevent schools from becoming epicenters of resurging cases in the country. In instances where face-to-face learning may be permitted in full or limited capacity by the national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs), there is an urgent need to put in place measures for schools to safely resume their on-campus operations within a protective home and community environment as well.
Once the government expands implementation beyond pilot schools, all the aforementioned imperatives shall be considered in the development of models for the safe resumption of face-to-face learning including the implementation of blended learning.
This policy shall provide guidance on the mechanisms and standards on the resumption of face-to-face classes. The guidelines shall also cover the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders across governance levels to ensure effective, efficient, and safe implementation.
The resumption of face-to-face classes will be implemented initially in selected participating schools in minimal-risk areas based on the Department of Health (DOH) risk classification in the following phases: (a) pilot implementation (b) expanded implementation (c) full implementation under the new normal. Specifically, for the pilot implementation, only learners from the Key Stage K-to-3 and selected secondary learners from Senior High School (SHS) in minimal-risk areas shall participate.
Definition of Terms
Air change per hour (ACH) – refers to the air flow to a space expressed as volume per unit time divided by the volume of the space.
Blended Learning Approach – refers to a learning delivery that combines face-to-face with any or a mix of online distance learning, modular distance learning, and TV/ Radiobased Instruction. Blended learning will enable the schools to limit face-to-face learning, ensure social distancing, and decrease the volume of people outside the home at any given time (as per the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan).
Medical Isolation – refers to separating someone with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19 infection to prevent their contact with others and to reduce the risk of transmission. Medical isolation ends when the individual meets pre-established clinical, time-based, and/or testing criteria for release from isolation, in consultation with clinical providers and public health officials. This does NOT refer to punitive isolation for behavioral infractions within the custodial setting.
Minimum Public Health Standards (MPHS) – refer to the guidance provided DOH Administrative Order No. 2021-0043 entitled “Omnibus Guidelines on the Minimum Public Health Standards for the Safe Reopening of Institutions” for the development of sector-specific and localized guidelines on mitigation measures for its COVID-19 response across all settings.
Minimal Risk – refers to an area with a two-week growth rate of zero or below and an Average Daily Attack Rate (ADAR) of less than one (1). The TWGR refers to the growth in cases in the last two weeks, while the ADAR refers to the attack rate based on newly reported cases in the past two weeks. (consistent with the latest Interagency Task Force quarantine alert level classification).
Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) – refers to protective garments or equipment such as but not limited to face masks, face shields, and gloves, that must be worn by individuals to increase personal safety from infectious agents or to minimize exposure to hazards that may cause infection.
Quarantine – refers to the restriction of movement, or separation from the rest of the population, of healthy persons who may have been exposed to the virus, with the objective of monitoring their symptoms and ensuring early detection of cases.
School – for the purpose of these guidelines, ‘school’ refers to public and private schools recognized by DepEd unless otherwise explicitly specified.
This Joint Memorandum Circular is hereby established to guide the safe implementation of the limited face-to-face classes and to improve learning outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the phased implementation seeks to:
- deliver quality basic education in a safe learning environment to learners in low- to minimal-risk areas;
- address the teaching and learning gaps encountered in the distance learning modalities; and
- strengthen the school-community health and safety support system for all children.
The operational framework for the resumption of face-to-face classes, as shown in Figure 1, was adopted from the UNESCO – UNICEF – World Bank Framework for Reopening Schools and DepEd Shared responsibility principle.
The framework has four major pillars, namely; (a) Safe Operations, (b) Teaching and Learning, (c) Including the Most Marginalized, and (d) Well-being and Protection. Cutting across all the pillars are the policy and finance support to ensure operational mechanisms are in place. Central to this is the Shared Responsibility principle. The framework will effectively engage the entire society in making sure that learners are safe and healthy while attending face-to-face classes. Specifically, the framework puts the learner’s health and safety at the heart of the implementation, allowing them to learn better.
The framework is centered on the following common elements: (a) Health and safety of learners, (b) Learning opportunities, (c) School operations, and (d) Engagement of the entire society.
DepEd-DOH Joint Memorandum Circular No. 3, s. 2021 – Operational Guidelines on the Implementation of Limited Face-to-Face Learning ModalityDEPED-DOH-JMC-No.-03-s.-2021