Reshaping the PH education system

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    THE coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic threatens education progress worldwide through two major shocks: the near-universal closing of schools at all levels and the economic recession sparked by pandemic control measures, according to a report of the World Bank.

    Without major efforts to counter their impacts, one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries says that shocks caused by the untimely closing of schools will lead to learning loss, increased dropouts, and higher inequality. All these will be exacerbated by economic shock that is expected to depress education demand and supply.

    Together, these twin thoughts will inflict long-run costs on human capital and welfare.

    Named as the best business newspaper, Malaya Business Insight has asked the insights of some educators about the effects of the ongoing pandemic on education, as well as changes and approaches that need to be considered.

    Dr. Michael Arthus Muega

    In cases where classes are suspended due to unfortunate events, schools must have standby alternative online venues for teaching and learning.

    Early training for self-regulated learning, sustained collaboration between parents, teachers, and administrators, use of well-designed printed learning materials, and use of technologies for those who have access to such devices have vital roles to play in the steady advancement of learning, even in situations that force the system to temporarily suspend classes and other social activities.

    Muega said all relevant and affordable technologies should be made available to students in order to facilitate their learning, while in-service and pre-service teachers should also be trained to use such devices effectively.

    Where technology is too expensive to be readily available to the students, teachers should be imaginative, resourceful, and flexible enough to find other means of getting the students to acquire or develop whatever they are expected to have learned at various stages of schooling.

    On the assumption that students have been trained on and are knowledgeable on the to-do’s of self-regulated learning, Muega said that all learning materials should be student-friendly and readily available to students who have no internet access.

    Muega said students who don’t have access to online resources must be provided with their own complete set of learning materials across the curriculum. He said resourceful parents could help cushion the impact of class suspensions.

    All reading and language teachers must be obliged to enable grade one students to read, as well as give them a standards-based exit test in reading before they enter grade two.

    “Every child ought to be fit enough to move onto the next higher level of schooling,” he pointed out.

    According to Muega, online instruction is not the only thing that can save students when schools are not in session. “If there are good books that have been designed to facilitate independent learning, then that would be an excellent remedy to the problem in view.”

    Muega likewise does not think of educational technology as a boon to education as there are certain occasions in which it becomes a liability.

    He cautioned school systems to exercise utmost diligence and ensure that all students and school personnel benefit from the use of technology

    Muega said a shift to home-based education during a pandemic is not necessarily something unfortunate. He said this could even provide a wider scope for learning, thereby making the education of students more productive, open to the development of their critical, imaginative, and creative thinking capabilities, and tailored according to their individual interests.

    The experience could also be a positive character-building experience.

    Dr. Maricris Acido

    Education could and should not exist separate from the social context and realities of which it is part. This often-neglected dimension of education has resonated once again and demands for answers, newer insights and perspectives, and innovative education solutions.

    Acido noted that technological challenges to education during a pandemic are already being addressed by educators. However, much help is needed from the government and industry especially in the provision of telecommunication solutions to enable efficient delivery of education programs and platforms.

    In this time of pandemic where education turns into an issue of technological capacity and capability, she said it is best for government to really step up policies where industries and other socio-civic groups could help out in providing much needed help to disadvantaged students.

    Online and alternative education platforms for the duration of the pandemic are not and should not be seen as alternatives at all to classroom education. “Education is a process of living, and being able to adapt to changes in every day human lives are naturally education processes, too, and are not only alternatives to it.”

    Reframing of education is one that should place education at the heart of humanity and human life; that it is not a separate and objectified process but a humanizing endeavor.

    Br. Edmundo Fernandez, FSC

    Everyone should be prepared for a serious and protracted crisis or emergency. For schools, this means having resources that will help tide them over and to think of ways to transition from on-site to remote learning.

    While online learning forces the teacher to be a facilitator for learning, there are many creative ways to tackle online learning but each one will need to move out of the old paradigm. “There will need to be a lot of retooling before we even begin to open full online classes.”

    The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and La Salle Green Hills lend hardware and use social media platforms to address some educational issues. “When campuses are allowed to open, we can set up working stations for both faculty and students.”

    He mentioned the blended learning system, a norm that requires access to technology. “With the limited resources and technology infrastructure that is not as advanced as first world countries, we have to be creative and those limitations should not hamper educators in trying to deliver remote learning.”

    “The interventions for online learning that this pandemic has forced us to undertake will be a great learning experience for all. It actually is an exciting time to experiment,” he added.

    John Israel Cunanan 

    The principle of ‘no child left behind’ is ideal at best but the implementation of it results in some problems. Cunanan said that not all students acquire the needed competencies within a year and all the more, some students barely acquire half of the needed competencies.

    He also said that adjusting the educational system to fit with the COVID-19 circumstance is pragmatic and noble, yet they are only band-aid solutions as the said system is still fraught with problems.

    “Educationalists have to address the foundational problems,” pointed out Cunanan.

    Cunanan sees two major fundamental problems which need to be addressed: pre-service teacher education program, and the curriculum.

    In the pre-service teacher education program, he said that philosophy of education is not present in the education of teachers. On the contrary, there is much emphasis on educational technology.

    The Department of Education (DepEd) has been providing a lot of training on classroom management, assessment, and kindred matters, “but entirely lacking in educational philosophy,” he stressed.

    For Cunanan, if teachers are not properly educated into the fundamental aims of education, the meaning of education and philosophy of curriculum, among others, their education will not be sufficient and this will be translated into their teaching.

    As for the second issue, this COVID-19 situation has been God-sent so that the DepEd is pushed to simplify the existing curriculum which, he said, is too much, redundant, and can still be reduced.

    “There is a need to re-consider the curriculum and we must be really careful in determining which ones our students to learn across their academic lives,” he noted.

    Recolito Abestano, Jr.

    Schools may have come to realize the irreplaceability of teacher-student classroom interaction as well as the limitation of technology to pedagogy and methodology.

    While the means should be adequate enough to cater to the demands of online instructions, Abestano also said that education must consider students’ socio-economic background. “Not all students are financially capable to have three meals a day let alone the monthly budget for internet connection, not to mention the tools and technological literacy.”

    Self-guided learning manuals should be provided rather than push with online classes, he said, to address one of the many education problems. Equal opportunities must also be prioritized as these will provide students a fair ground where human potentials can be nurtured and developed.

    If there is a lack of infrastructure, no amount of theoretical introspection will suffice. Shifts must also be done down to the basics before starting to talk about pedagogy and all.

    Besides focusing on how to utilize technology in the most efficient way, educators have to consider and start asking how to utilize their individual yearnings, and desire to look for answers on some of the pressing questions which cultivate self-reflection and self-directed learning.

    Significant learning have to be utilized it in order to see the value of education in dealing with the fundamental issues of life, he added. “We also have to understand that in the face of crisis, there are truths that can never be ignored nor denied.”

    John Mark Nevada

    Nevada noted three universal and general lessons the education sector can learn from the countrywide school closures.

    First, no school institutions can be perfectly prepared during unfortunate events. Instead of active participation to progress toward ideal preparation, he said that there is a great tendency to fall on the blaming-game in this situation.

    Second, there is a reflective philosophical side of education that should be learned by everyone within a school institution. “Education is a tool to teach students to be reflective, and this quarantine is a viable time for it.”

    Lastly, the expansion of free online educational tools through smart phones. Nevada said that educational tools should appeal to generation teachers who are currently teaching and not just its usefulness in the future vocation. “Education has to be fun through accessible smart phones regardless of their limitations.”

    According to Nevada, there can be no definite answer for the perfect preparedness of the society to respond to virtual education.

    He noted two factors of this imperfect preparation: school’s capacity factor and students’ capacity factor.

    The first factor, he said, is warranted by the school’s provision of the reliable internet connection for synchronous and asynchronous learning platform for their teachers to create a meaningful educational experience for their students, the school-wide live conferences and meetings demand a very stable internet connection as well.

    “The school should provide necessary technical trainings to teachers whose roles on this virtual learning matter so much. However, many of them are uninformed on the advancement of today’s technology.”

    As for the second factor, he said that private school students are relatively privileged to attend online classes because of their capacity to avail stable internet connections and purchase the best gadgets they will need for their education. Public school students, on the other hand, are on different financial and social capacities.

    He mentioned the partnership of schools with telecommunication companies, which could be the most ideal and beneficial for all.

    He also added that the generous provision of smartphones with free access to creative educational tools and platforms for needy students may be ideal, but telecommunication companies’ support will be of great benevolent act to this society.

    Experts in technological inventions are real experts if their inventions benefit and advance the collective educational realm – nothing more and nothing less, he said, adding that the development of scalable educational technology is also of great warrant not just in times of school closures but also for the improvement of the educative processes.

    Nevada noted that the philosophy of each school matters on their options for resources. “Students, however, can only begin their engagement when they have an access to a hand phone that avails free access to aesthetically designed, age-appropriate and scientifically and epistemologically objective resources for students.”

    For him, this pandemic sends a message about the fragility of men as mere bodily beings with inevitable bodily death. “It is great that we recognize the negative effect of this pandemic not just in the educational realm but in the collective humanity in the universal realm.”

    He noted that the only philosophical way to recover stronger after this crisis is through pessimistic-optimistic worldview. The recovery also includes the motivation to live life to the fullest after the survival of seemingly inevitable death.

    The Philippine government has temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. These countrywide closures have affected 28,451,212 learners enrolled at pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary, and upper-secondary levels of education, as well as at tertiary education levels.

    Enrolment figures are based on latest United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics data.

    The World Bank says that if countries move quickly to support continued learning, they can mitigate the damage and even turn recovery into new opportunity. Policy responses to achieve this can be summarized in three overlapping phases: coping, managing continuity, and improving and accelerating.

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