The DepEd Order No. 034 series of 2022, which was signed on July 11 by Vice President and Secretary Sara Z. Duterte, sets the commencement of classes on August 22 and the end on July 7, 2023. Some students have never been able to sit next to a friend, wear a school uniform, or raise their hands to ask a teacher a question. They have only ever had a screen from a laptop or phone connecting them to their school. The government of the Philippines imposed one of the longest lockdowns in history to stop the spread of COVID-19, forcing 27 million additional students around the nation to study online for two years.

And now that the students are in class, they must learn new rules. There was little chit-chat in the classes at the Palanan Elementary School in the Makati neighborhood of Manila. Many of the pupils were diligently copying their class schedule into their workbooks as they concentrated entirely on their teacher. These scenes could be found in nearly half of all schools in the Philippines. Local television stations were flooded with information about the safest bus routes for kids to use to get to school, as well as beautiful images of delighted little kids running through the gates in brand-new uniforms. Some even wore headbands that stated, “eager to learn,” for the day. On August 22, about 46% of students began five days of in-person instruction; the remainder will initially continue taking certain courses online. The administration anticipates that by November, every student who has registered for school will be back in the classroom.