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One day after assuring that the virtual and blended classes are here "to stay", the Ministry of Education (MINED) reported yesterday that the students will return from the end of the year vacations on February 6 and, for the first time in three years pandemics, in 100% face-to-face mode.
Through social networks, the State portfolio announced its decision, but clarified that it will publish the official circular later. "We announce to the educational community that the 2023 school year will begin 100% in person on February 6. In the coming days we will publish the circular with all the relevant information," the ministry said.
For their part, private institutions reported that, following MINED guidelines, their classes will also be 100% face-to-face this year. Javier Hernández, president of the Association of Private Schools of El Salvador (ACPES), confirmed to LA PRENSA GRÁFICA that they will begin on January 16 and a day later they will carry out the official inauguration, in Apopa. Going back to the classroom, he said, "is the best news the education system can receive."
Virtual classes were implemented in 2020 to provide continuity to education in the midst of the pandemic, but in 2021 and 2022 it went to blended attendance, where caregivers had the option of sending students to classrooms or keeping them from home.
However, on repeated occasions, teachers in the public and private sectors have warned that delaying the return to full face-to-face education caused lags in childhood and adolescence, to the point of identifying illiteracy from first to fourth grade and even mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
"As the Salvadoran Teachers' Front, we are satisfied that the Ministry of Education has finally given us a date to start the school year. We are going to have to make some adjustments, because it is until February 6," said Idalia Zúniga, secretary General of the Salvadoran Magisterial Front. "We are satisfied because face-to-face will be resumed. We had already talked about the effects of having children with virtual education, which was not favourable, that we had children with many affectations, with depression, with educational lag, literacy problems ", he added.
"School is the place where children play, get dirty, hit each other, fight. It is part of the socialization process, but if these children remain at home they become withdrawn, shy," agreed Jorge Villegas, general secretary of Bases Magisteriales . He assured that the best way to teach students is in the classroom. "How can students have feedback if there is no teacher? In short, face-to-face classes are the best teaching and learning process," he said.
Did "the pressure" work?
Just on Thursday, the interim head of the branch, José Mauricio Pineda, had told the official Channel 10 that the flexible modality of education "came to stay" and with this he also referred to those that were implemented by covid-19.
"The blended and virtual, which also came (sic) to stay. Those educational centers that are in some risky conditions at the time when there is rain or any other situation that may put them at risk, can stay from home and attend to education virtually or remotely or blended," he said.
Villegas, from Bases Magisteriales, considered that the official "does not have a defined position", since on Thursday he assured that the blended modality would continue in force and 24 hours later he backed down.
In the opinion of the teacher unions, the MINED's decision to return to 100% face-to-face is the result of the pressure that, together with the student's caregivers, they have exerted in recent months.
"There have been pressures from teachers and parents who are aware that it is more effective (for students to receive their classes in person)," said Carlos Olano, of the Teachers Union for Education for All (SINDOPETS). Zúniga, from the Teachers' Front, agreed: "This is the result of the pressure we exert as Salvadoran teachers."
The general secretary of the Union of Educators of the Department of Santa Ana (SEDESA), Óscar Martínez, also assured that face-to-face was a "general clamor of the teachers", because "it is a double effort to be working multimodally, let's say in a blended way and have students also online. For some teachers the task is quite loaded".
On the other hand, the unions said they did not know why classes would start in February, when normally the starting flag occurs in January. Before the MINED announcement, in a radio interview, the general secretary of ANDES 21 de Junio, Israel Montano, referred to the curricular reform that, according to the ministry, it wants to implement this 2023, starting with 20% of the schools.
Montano reiterated that the teachers know this initiative "superficially" and appreciated that if Education intends to fully start this year with the educational reform, "the month of January should be used for the socialization of the project" and start with classes in February. "The proposal has been known in a very superficial way, this induction has not been had in a particular way in that project," he said.
Teachers returned to work on Thursday. "We hope that the delay with which classes begin will not affect the end of the year in November and they want to make teachers work more time," said Olano, from SINDOPETS.