Who is going to learn in a closed school?
Almost two months ago, as I was scrolling through my twitter, I came across this post from a national reporter showing photos of parents and guardians protesting to call for return of face to face classes on the first day of a brand new academic year in a school somewhere in Manila.
Anjo Bagaoisan on Twitter: “The protesters flashed letters forming ‘LIGTAS NA BALIK-PAARALAN’ (safe return to school) highlighting their call for better pandemic response to pave the way for face-to-face classes. They are also launching a petition to be sent to DepEd, CHEd & Congress https://t.co/rN8esWwy5m” / Twitter
Seen in the photos were parents and guardians flashing letters to form LIGTAS NA BALIK-PAARALAN or safe return to school as they emphasize the need for better health crisis response to make face-to-face classes possible.
It has been a year already since schools nationwide were abruptly closed due to the coronavirus disease. The country also finished a far more different educational system last school year with the implementation of different learning delivery modalities to promote learning continuity amidst pandemic.
I believe it was a year filled with overwhelming consequences of the pandemic and quite compelling educational challenges among learners, parents/guardians, and teachers.
We cannot refuse to say that face to face classes as the traditional educational set up which we implement in schools long before the pandemic spread all over the globe really help with the teaching and learning process. Before, they learned from a wide array of teaching and learning strategies that are utilized in the teaching learning situation. Learners also learned from an academic dialogue with their peers during discussions. Learners had a full access to learning resources and materials.
Education has changed. It has undergone some paradigm shifts – leaving behind, for the time being, every traditional teaching and learning strategy which no longer translates to remote learning or learning delivery modalities employed by schools. Classes are no longer conducted in the classroom. Teachers become virtual mentors, employing information and communications technology (ICT) in their day-to-day teaching journey. Learners can no longer be seen within the school premises yet giving it their best shot to learn in the comfort of their own home, at their own pace and time, and through their preferred learning styles.
This pandemic is too much of a burden now. Its overwhelming consequences have caused even more damages to all dimensions of society. The damages have been done and it is all the more that the government should improve their pandemic response to make room for the return of things better left undisturbed.
There are challenges that this now-normal set up in education has to confront with in order for it to produce successful and quality graduates in the future. However, challenges do not remain as challenges when they were provided with appropriate responses.
Challenge No. 1. Shifts in Conducting Classes
Most of the schools in the country use modular printed learning delivery modality that allows learners to take full control of their learning by using self-learning modules. The learning becomes material-directed. In some areas, schools use radio-based instruction and TV-based instruction. On the other hand, some schools also implement online distance learning where the teacher facilitates the learning process by engaging them in using various Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which can be accessed through the Internet while they are geographically distant from one another during the teaching and learning process.
However, some people do not believe that this type of learning delivery modality will prosper during this brand new year as observed from the previous year of implementation. Some parents believe their learners are not able to learn from online classes since the interaction is way more different to when everything was normal.
Response: Capacity building on teachers will lay foundation for an adaptive and relevant teaching strategies which they can use in teaching in today’s context. Teachers should be provided many trainings and workshops that will help them with becoming equipped with 21st century skills they need to make learning happen. Trainings and seminars on the positive use of ICT should be given emphasis.
Challenge No. 2 Internet Connectivity Issues
For an efficient online class to happen, it requires a strong internet connection during the discussion or instruction. It cannot be denied that most of the students are just using mobile devices to participate in online class engagements. Needless to say, some of these online classes were not successful and participated by the learners due to lack of internet connection or much even worse, signal reception in their area.
Response: As it has been experienced over and over again back in the previous school year, there should be alternative platforms which can cater those learners who live in far-flung areas and do not get strong signal reception. This is where tow-way radio based and TV-based instructions come in the equation. Of course, teachers should still be prepared for this kind of learning delivery modality. Remember, the learning of the students may depend on how the teaching and learning process takes place.
Challenge No. 3 Different Way of Evaluating Learning
Evaluating learning has changed as well. The traditional way of assessing the students’ learning and progress no longer translates these days. Learning should not be mainly based on answered modules or accomplished activities. There’s more to assessment than just merely checking the learners’ outputs from a module which key answers are included in the printed copy that the students receive. This is by far the greatest challenge for the teachers – to step up efforts in evaluating their students’ learning the best way they can.
Response: IT all just boils down to creating a good system where students can engage themselves in authentic learning experiences while still considering their difficult circumstances. The positive use of ICT and other offline applications can pave the way for learning to take place. Also, quarterly assessment can also be utilized as long as the process of assessment itself is valid.
While some of us think of these educational challenges as a burden, we tend to forget that this paradigm shift of learning can also be an extraordinary opportunity to reset education and ensure the implementation of inclusive education; providing learning opportunities for all learners and getting as many children back to school as possible since the learning delivery modality is at their advantage.
The question “Who is going to learn in a closed school?” will remain a question unless appropriate actions were done and necessary measures were made. Desperate situations call for desperate measures as the cliché goes. With appropriate pandemic responses, quality education can still be accessible to every learner who has the right to obtain it. Learning these days might seem to be quite compelling, but as long as the motivation and the determination were infused within the learners, there is no way learning cannot take place.
Learning does not just take place inside the classroom. It can happen outside. It can happen at home or even anywhere in the world. It depends on the learner’s drive to acquire knowledge and learn new things. With or without school closures, you will learn if you have the determination and perseverance to better yourself and make significant progress for your own good.