What’s in store for our school children?

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    ‘Everyone gets that the Department of Education and all the schools are playing catch up with the situation, but there is a lot of uncertainty about what kind of learning our kids are going to have when the school year finally opens.’

    FOR parents with school-aged children, the month of May usually signals the start of preparations for the coming school year: enrolment, buying school things, medical check-ups, savoring what’s left of summer vacation. This year is markedly different from what we have come to expect, in many ways than one.

    My parent chat groups have been solidly chattering about what’s in store for our kids this coming school year. There are a lot of unanswered concerns and questions posed by parents to each other, in the hope that these are eventually raised to the school administration. By now we all accept that schools won’t be opening in June, and the Department of Education just announced that classes will be resuming in late August, but we don’t know just yet whether classes can already be conducted face-to-face. Private schools were given the green light to start earlier than that, provided that students will not be required to physically attend classes, with the guidance that only distance learning modules should be adopted.

    Everyone gets that the Department of Education and all the schools are playing catch up with the situation, but there is a lot of uncertainty about what kind of learning our kids are going to have when the school year finally opens. Some of the parents I’ve talked to who send their kids to different schools echo pretty much the same concerns: apart from the lack of plans presented to parents about the nitty-gritty of distance learning, none of the schools seem to have a solid plan of how to go about online classes.

    It sounds like the best idea for now: children will go online to still listen and learn from their teachers, so they will not be exposed or become carriers of COVID-19 to their families. Except that we must contend with the realities of our own situation: first, internet connectivity even in urban areas leaves much to be desired. I’m not sure if the internet providers can even move quick enough to meet the demand once school starts, especially if schools implement distance learning which will be heavy on streaming videos.

    Second, how will families with several students deal with distance learning? While details are hazy at best, some parents are already asking if separate gadgets and/or computers will be required per student. Doing so will require families to invest in more equipment at a time when finances are strained. I haven’t seen any prescribed learning software programs from DepEd, and until such time that DepEd comes out with recommendations, private schools will be tasked with choosing the program they will use. Hopefully there are open source materials available to cushion the cost for schools.

    Thirdly, parents who are not privileged enough to have domestic angels at home worry about who will watch their kids during online classes, especially once they will be required to start reporting for office work. This means either one parent will have to stay and work from home in order to make sure that their kids are actually doing their school work during school hours. This will be less of a problem for those with kids in the higher levels, but this is a real concern for parents with children in kinder until Grade 3.

    I hope this is addressed by DepEd and CHED too – the matter of tuition fees. Admittedly, a lot of parents are expecting a decrease in tuition fees for the year, given that the first few months are expected to be spent via distance learning. However, I have heard violent reactions from parents who send their kids to various schools that the tuition fee expected to be paid is the same as last year’s tuition. While private schools survive on income from tuition fees, maybe school administrations can come up with a staggered or graduated fee structure of some sort, based on the actual learning set up. And I’m not just talking about accepting payments on a monthly or quarterly basis, but assessing how much tuition should be in a quarter that is done mostly on distance learning. This sort of set-up can provide both schools and parents flexibility in increasing or decreasing fees, as dictated by prevalent learning circumstances.

    In any case, I hope our educators get a firmer grasp on what the school year will look like for our children soon, keeping in mind the realities that families face on the ground. As always, I hope that whatever resolution will have in mind the best interest of children when it comes to dealing with the new learning landscape we are facing.

     

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