COMMENTARY: Adapting for Continuous Learning

by Davy Jones L. Tabamo

“Change is the only constant thing in the world.”

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) – We have probably heard of this quote a thousand times before. But despite being used to change, no one, not even the government, was ready for the abrupt changes that need to be adopted as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads worldwide.

We are living in an unprecedented time. Some of the activities that were considered mundane before are now a luxury in this “new normal.” As economies go down, we are also required to stay at home and wear protective gear like face masks when going out. Social gatherings are prohibited, and physical distancing is being implemented. Moreover, some establishments and institutions, which include schools, are forced to shut down. Policymakers are in a dilemma of whether to close schools to reduce contact and transmission or to open them to sustain education and the economy.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the pandemic. These closures are impacting over 91 percent of the world’s student population. Yet, with the epidemic still ongoing, these risk-control decisions have led a lot of students into temporary “homeschooling” situations.

In the Philippines, the Department of Education (DepEd) is working hard to convert the modality of teaching from conventional “face-to-face” learning to so-called “blended learning”. It is a fusion of “online distant learning” and “in-person” delivery of printed materials to the homes of the learners through the barangays for those that don’t have internet access and interactive facilities in their homes. However, recently, there has been a clamor for an academic freeze. Aware of the lapses in our current educational system, many have proposed to delay the opening of classes. They cited factors like the efficacy of online learning, the internet connectivity issues in the country, and the financial limitations of many families.

It is a sad fact that many Filipino families lack access to online technology. Aside from not having the budget for internet connection, the average internet speed in the Philippines is only 3.5 mbps, which is clearly behind South Korea’s average speed of 29 mbps or Japan’s 90 mbps. A reliable internet connection is needed for online learning to be effective. Also, not all homes may be conducive to homeschooling.

However, Senate basic education committee chair Sherwin Gatchalian expressed his concern that “freezing learning will only leave them less fortunate Filipinos more behind.” True enough, the education of 27.2 million students (from kindergarten to high school) is at stake. Thus, instead of effecting academic freeze, DepEd has a counterproposal— educational reforms.

The inability to conduct face-to-face classes propelled DepEd to look into viable solutions for the students to continue learning. They are also considering using live television and radio broadcasts to reach far-flung areas.

These options that the students and their parents can choose from take into account the current plight of Filipino families. These also favor another stakeholder— our dear teachers—800,000 of whom come from the public schools.

Just like their students, teachers are also adapting to these changing platforms of education. Parents and other adults who supervise the children’s learning at home now appreciate much the patience of the teachers who put up and deal with their students in the traditional classroom setting.

We applaud the educational sector for doing its best to address all issues at play. Although our current plight has caused a degree of inconvenience to our teachers’ jobs, parents’ productivity and the children’s social life and learning, it also prompted innovations in education. It gave us a glimpse at how it could change the form of the education landscape that has remained stagnant for years.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Davy Jones L. Tabamo is a graduate of BS Accountancy from Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Bukidnon.)

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