Philippines teachers start call centre to help remote learners

MANILA (Reuters) – Worried that remote schooling could become a struggle, a local authority in the Philippines has set up a makeshift call centre staffed by dozens of teachers to make sure students don’t fall behind in class.

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The temporary call centre opened in the capital Manila on Monday staffed by 70 people who have been busy answering hundreds of daily queries by phone, email and instant messenger, as students get to grips with virtual learning.

“Quality education must continue. Just because there is an ongoing pandemic the quality of learning shouldn’t suffer,” said Ferdinand Delgado, team leader of the support programme.

“This programme was made to strengthen the government’s efforts to help students with their education.”

Schools across the Philippines have been closed since March to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 330,000 people locally, with over 6,000 deaths.

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed not to reopen schools until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Some 50 teachers and 20 substitute teachers at the support programme have been trained by call centre supervisors to handle student inquiries, most of which have so far been about maths or science.

The Philippines itself has been dubbed the “call centre of the world”, employing more than a million people in its Business Process Outsourcing industry, serving international companies with customers worldwide.

“This programme is very important for the students because they cannot always easily reach out to their school teachers,” said maths teacher, Ailene Almoite.

“More often than not, parents are also unsure about the lessons given to the students and are unable to help them.”

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