THE INTER agency task force leading the country’s coronavirus pandemic response will discuss next week plans to hold a dry run for limited in-person classes, according to the presidential Palace.

The proposed trial run will be taken up during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, Presidential Spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised press briefing.

Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones, in the same briefing, said they are already preparing for the resumption of face-to-face classes in some areas in anticipation of the President’s approval.

“Naghahanda kami. Baka dadating na i-lift na ni President ang deferment ng pilot studies natin na ito,” Ms. Briones said.

She said more than half of the student population are pushing for the resumption of physical classes.

Citing a survey conducted by the department, Ms. Briones said the “strongest supporters” of the resumption of face-to-face classes are the learners themselves with over 50% of the respondents supporting the restart of academic activities this school year.

A “significant portion” of teachers also support the call, while parents remain undecided, she added.

Ms. Briones cited that the Philippines remains the “only country” in Southeast Asia that has yet to resume in-person classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier recalled the task force’s decision allowing a pilot test of limited in-person classes in areas with low coronavirus infections due to the detection of the more contagious virus strains in the country.

“We will give him at least four policy choices because it is his decision whether to allow or not the resumption of limited face-to-face classes,” Ms. Briones said.

In another development, a House of Representatives panel has approved the proposed establishment of specialized schools for industrial and technical skills to boost the employability of technical vocational students.

In its hearing on Thursday, the committee on basic education and culture approved House Bill No. 6287 or the proposed Meister Schools Act.

“Meister” schools are senior high schools that offer courses that focus on “highly-specialized, higher order industrial, and technical skills.”

The bill’s author, Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Maria Clemente “Joey” S. Salceda, said the framework is modeled after Meister schools in other countries.

“We patterned Meister Schools after successful models in Germany and Korea, where industry and schools would work together to craft curricula that suit the needs of the economy. Meister schools in these countries have a strong emphasis on apprenticeship and on learning on-the-job,” he said.

The proposed law also seeks to elevate the status of technical-vocational education with graduates who are highly skilled and hireable to address the issue of skills gap and youth unemployment in the country. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Gillian M. Cortez