Wenceslao: Online prospects

Bong O. Wenceslao

MY YOUNG son, who is in junior high school in a science school in our town, has enrolled in what could turn out to be largely online classes because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The enrollment was done online, as ordered by the Department of Education (DepEd). Parents and students were told not to physically visit the school campus because nobody will entertain them there.

My son’s older brother is still in limbo as far as school is concerned. He took the entrance exams for admission in college, but nothing much is moving on this regard after the Covid 19 pandemic gripped us. We, his parents, are already mulling the possibility of him missing at least one semester. Online classes are an option but I understand the Commission on Higher Education does not have much of a control over the fees imposed by colleges and universities on online classes.

The thought of parents wanting their children to skip classes is apparently widespread, especially those under the public school system. I talked with a parent residing in an upland barangay and he is unsure about this online education thing that the DepEd is pushing. The family is ignorant about gadgets and obviously doesn’t have one. I encouraged to have his child pair with a classmate-neighbor who has a gadget and knows the online world. They could help each other out--if the DepEd allows that.

That, plus the obvious economic difficulty the family is through, has solidified his decision to have his child skip classes this school year. I believe there are many families out there who are in the same predicament as the parent I talked with the other day. School enrollments will suffer a drastic dip this school year.

Despite DepEd’s optimism, the economic difficulties brought about by the lockdowns, the fear of the coronavirus and the unfamiliarity (and lack of resources) of many parents re: online classes are conspiring to make me pessimistic about DepEd’s pronouncements. Would the school year roll with only one half of schoolchildren enrolled?

Online education, and I hate to admit this, will only serve to worsen the already elitist setup in our educational system. Only children of the upper middle and the upper crust of society will be able to survive it. But what can we do when being infected by a deadly virus is the alternative? Meaning that the marginalized need to be ready to let the crisis pass by and forego their children’s education if worst comes to worst.

On this, education officials could gather lessons from the pandemic. To be fair, the DepEd, with the help of the private sector, are slowly moving towards upgrading the educational system to keep up with recent advances in technology. Public schools have computer rooms where children learn to use computers. Teachers are also using social media to communicate with school children notably in doing assignments.

The effort is there but the lack of resources is hampering that effort. Now we know how important the online aspect of the educational system is. Government needs to focus on this and private sector help is needed also.