THE President’s decision to postpone face-to-face instruction for selected schools this January is aimed at preventing the transmission of a strain of the Sars-COV-2 virus causing the coronavirus disease.
The postponement gives the Department of Education (DepEd) more time to prepare for the full-scale resumption of face-to-face classes, reported SunStar Cebu on Dec. 29, 2020.
Even higher priority should be given by the DepEd to assess distance education. Uppermost should be this concern: what have students learned under distance education?
As with nearly all institutions, the educational system has had to adjust and adapt to conditions imposed by the spread of Covid-19, the subsequent community quarantine and consequent constraints imposed on all human interactions, including learning.
President Rodrigo Duterte said that face-to-face instruction may resume in mid-March 2021 or when the public is vaccinated for Covid-19, reported SunStar Cebu.
With no certainty when Covid-19 will no longer pose public health hazards and in-person classes can resume, education stakeholders must focus on improving distance learning, which has an impact on the 25 million enrolled for school year 2020-2021.
How is learning optimized for students, specially those marginalized by the pandemic?
What can stakeholders do to assist and enhance distance learning, particularly for students and teachers with fewer resources and residing in remote places with limited access and little or no connectivity?
How can educators enable parents who are constrained in assisting their children since distance education shifts the focus of learning with greater emphasis on the family at home as a factor boosting or constraining a youth’s learning?
Distance education puts pressure on the learner’s self-sustained capacity to navigate the process. For children and youths, adult guidance is needed. Will parents know enough to mentor or will they do the work for their children, given the continuing emphasis on the learner’s output submission and assessment by the teacher, as well as the assignment of numerical grades for determining a learner’s performance and passing of the standards set for a particular learning level?
DepEd officials must look at the past months’ experiences, learnings and red flags in the piloting. An institutional review is needed to replan and re-implement distance education.
The disconnection between the modes of distance education with the resources and capabilities of students and educators begins with the correction of learning content that is erroneous, biased, insensitive and inappropriate. Can youths detect and process these errors without guidance from teacher or parent? Will these omissions and lapses not bury and reinforce errors into becoming lifelong biases and misconceptions?
Written works and performance outputs replace the periodic tests and exams that once measured how a student learned before the pandemic. How confidently can an educator assign a numerical rating for a learner when the submission and quality of written works and performance outputs, such as oral and multimedia presentations, are affected by other factors beyond the learner’s control: fit of the distance learning mode with the learner’s access to resources, resources and capacity of the teacher for online or blended learning and mentoring capacity or constraint of parent/guardian, to name some.
DepEd and other stakeholders have yet to establish the signs of authentic growth in our learners: independence of mind, critical thinking, creativity, social awareness, self-reflexivity, mental health and lifelong openness to knowledge and insight.
Subjected to the crucible of the pandemic and distance education, genuine learning is the fruit we seek to be inculcated in our learners.