LEARNING IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 CRISIS
As the threat of the Covid-19 contagion remains high, we share the view of the Department of Education that learning must continue for the 27 million learners in the country, but not with sense of urgency, as the welfare of these learners should be paramount.
Despite the Covid-19 threat, the DepEd has assured it is doing its best to come up with plans that would ensure the safety of learners and continuity of quality learning if the planned school opening in August pushes through without prejudice to the earlier stand of the President that classes would not resume until the vaccine is available.
For one, DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones emphasized that something must be done so as not disrupt learning while the world is still grappling to develop a vaccine for the Covid-19.
Among its plans are learning delivery modalities aside from face-to-face classes such as distance learning through online, modular and TV/radio-based instruction; blended learning which is a combination of those mentioned; and homeschooling facilitated by qualified parents, guardians or tutors.
Each of these learning modalities is a challenge on its own, but no one has the monopoly on what is the best mode of learning, as we learn as we go in this pandemic.
Even South Korea, which could be the world’s test case in implementing online learning when schools opened in April, has encountered challenges with teachers and students still struggling to adjust from face-to-face learning to online home lessons, problems on technical glitches as online traffic surged, lack of gadgets in low-income families, technical know-how of learners/teachers, among others.
This is South Korea already, the most wired country in the world where nine out of 10 people owned a smartphone in 2018.
The Philippines has a lot of catching up to do in terms of information and communications technology to ensure quality learning under the new normal.
In the Cordillera, not all areas have Internet connection or even mobile phone signal and electricity, thus making online classes truly a challenging one. Added to that is the lack of equipment such as laptops and desktops that these learners need for their online classes. A survey by the DepEd-Cordillera, however, showed that almost every household in this landlocked region has access to radio or television, which could be a means of learning for those in far flung barangays.
Due to the numerous challenges ahead, a strong partnership with the local government units and the local school boards is crucial when classes resume under the new normal.
In the event face-to-face education is seen as a better choice especially in low risk areas, DepEd should make sure that all precautionary measures are put in place, such as physical distancing, provision of face masks, face shields, thermal scanners, and wash facilities in strategic locations within the learning facilities.
Ultimately, whatever learning mode is implemented in an area, DepEd should be lenient to students when giving requirements, and there should be a system of monitoring each learner’s progress and welfare.
Meanwhile, the Senate’s latest move to approve on second reading Senate Bill 1541, which would amend the Section 3 of Republic Act 7797 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from 200 days to not more than 220 class days,” could help the government if it needs to defer the school opening beyond August. The current law mandates that the school opening should be on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.
While the Philippines is still bracing for the next waves of the Covid-19, we do not see a sense of urgency for an early resumption of classes, if only to safeguard the health of our million of learners.
In this time of uncertainty, we again remind our leaders of the adage that it takes a village to raise a child.