Primary and secondary schools in the Philippines will resume in August but without in-person classes in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the Education Department said Thursday.
The department clarified the plan after President Rodrigo Duterte suggested earlier this week that he would not allow pupils and students to return to classrooms until a vaccine for the new coronavirus becomes available.
It said the president's stance does not contradict its intention to do away with in-person classes when the delayed new school year starts in August.
"The president doesn't want it (in-person classes). We don't want it too. We don't want to put our children in danger," Education Secretary Leonor Briones said during a virtual press briefing. "There is no conflict, no disagreement, no debate."
Briones said the department would pursue alternative modes of education, such as distance learning, if face-to-face learning is not possible. Those may include the use of online, television, radio and printed materials, she explained.
A school year traditionally starts in June in the Philippines. But as the government struggles to stem the spread of the virus, education authorities have moved its start to August.
Confusion erupted on Philippine social media this week after the president said the reopening of schools will have to be postponed to ensure the safety of students.
"Kids, no more classes anymore...I will not allow the opening of classes...For this generation, there will be no new doctors, and engineers...Nothing," Duterte said in a late-night televised address on Monday.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19. More than 110 vaccine development projects are under way worldwide, with some in the clinical testing phase, according to a World Health Organization list.