Two years of online graduations, with college freshmen and sophomores never even having seen their schools, because of the pandemic is coming to an end with most of the country now under an Alert Level 1 status, according to Malacañang. It is time that higher education institutions (HEIs), i.e. colleges and universities, start opening their doors to welcome students in their hallowed halls once again.
The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, following the recommendations of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), has allowed for universities and colleges to restart the conduct of face-to-face classes granted that these HEIs follow the self-assessment checklist under the guidelines previously imposed by CHED and the Department of Health. One very critical requirement: vaccination. Both teaching and non-teaching personnel, as well as the students themselves, have to be fully vaccinated for face-to-face classes to be done. Higher education learners who have not yet been fully inoculated need to continue under a flexible learning modality.
If primary and secondary education institutions under the Department of Education (DepEd) have been allowed to conduct face-to-face classes, it stands to reason that colleges and universities would soon follow suit. It should, in fact, come as no surprise. It was older teens and young adults, after all, who first received Covid-19 vaccine shots, with younger children only getting inoculated earlier this year. Under an Alert Level 1, HEIs now have the option to return to 100 percent seating capacity in classrooms.
Previously, it was only college courses that required laboratory time that were allowed to conduct face-to-face classes. No matter how much modern technology has allowed for virtual classes to be more productive than ever, the experience of attending classes that needed more technical modes of instruction, as well as more experiential lessons best done in a laboratory setup, could not be denied.
In as much as face-to-face classes benefit younger learners because of the undeniable need for interaction with fellow students, particularly crucial in early childhood development stages, the same can be said of students in colleges and universities. It is under HEIs where the next generation of the Philippines’ industry leaders and workforce are trained. It is in colleges and universities where the country’s future movers and shakers are made — there are exceptions, surely, but the norm still remains. And if these bright and budding younger Filipinos are not given the full experience a tertiary education offers because of Covid-19, are we not risking the future of the country much more than is necessary?
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