Online schooling
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - May 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Last Monday, President Duterte announced his decision to suspend all classes until a vaccine is available. His daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte doesn’t think such a suspension makes sense.

Health Secretary Duque earlier said it is alright to open schools on Aug. 24 so long as proper social distancing and hygiene measures are implemented.

Now Malacañang announced schools will open on August anyway.

The decision to go ahead with school opening is a good one so long as they are able to protect the health of students. As Sen. Win Gatchalian pointed out, our children are so way behind their international peers as it is.

Letting them hibernate for two or more years until a vaccine is available isn’t really an option. It will just widen the divide between those who can afford alternative education and those who cannot.

Many in the “can afford” communities have actually been doing homeschooling for a number of years now. These are also the families that can afford digital devices and subscription to good broadband that will enable them to benefit from online education whether from here or abroad.

It need not have been that bad if they didn’t abruptly force ABS-CBN to shut down. ABS-CBN is not just about Ang Probinsyano and Showtime. It is also about Knowledge Channel, one of the five channels on TVPlus.

For over 20 years now, KC had been working with DepEd in developing curriculum-based programs that are now being used in classrooms all over the country. The Knowledge Channel and ABS-CBN Foundations have even donated TV sets used in classrooms specially in far flung areas.

With the coronavirus disease 2019 or  Covid-19 lockdown, KC worked with DepEd to launch a Stay-at-Home campaign to enable public school children to keep up with their studies even if schools are closed. Through TVPlus, KC reaches a large number of homes nationwide, ideal during a lockdown. Internet at best has limited penetration.

Beyond producing educational programs, KC also helped train teachers on how to more effectively use KC programs in their classrooms. Studies showed kids who watched had at least 20 percent advantage in academic accomplishments.

The late Gina Lopez also produced a number of educational programs: Sineskwela on science and technology; Math Tinik on mathematics; Bayani on lives of Filipino heroes; and Hirayamanawari on Filipino folk tales and legends.

Between Gina and Rina Lopez who runs KC, there is a very strong commitment to use television for education in ABS-CBN. Not even the government network has invested as heavily as ABS-CBN on this.

Using television for education helps schoolchildren in the far-flung areas. I have personally joined KC in Datu Paglas town in Maguindanao where KC donated a satellite dish so they can access KC programs. This was also done in Tawi Tawi and many other areas.

Sayang. KC has a massive library of educational programs developed specially for Filipino children under DepEd supervision. They didn’t talk too much about this side of ABS-CBN, but they have done a lot of work through the years that shows the network isn’t just about mass entertainment.

Last I heard from Rina, they had also been working on bringing online learning to the public schools. But the main problem is availability of WiFi connections. Signals are normally weak where available, but mostly it isn’t even there.

As in the use of television to augment classroom learning, teachers also have to be trained to use computers and the internet to teach. I know because my daughter, who is teaching in a public school in California, had to undergo full time training for over a year on how to effectively use computers in the classroom. It is a joy to see how computers are used in my daughter’s classroom the way we use paper, pencil and books.

With the lockdown, my daughter is holding classes via computer from her breakfast table. They allowed all her pupils to take home the iPads they use in the classroom and they all log in for class daily.

It is not easy. My daughter says it is easier to teach live in a classroom. Not all pupils are diligent enough to follow the course requirements online. But it can be done with the right hardware and the right teachers.

My guess is that we are still barely struggling to get computers and train teachers on how to use them. Online education in our public schools is still largely a dream. DepEd and even the LGUs do not have the resources to provide each pupil an iPad, unlike the school district where my daughter teaches.

There is no doubt online learning is the way to go. The World Economic Forum noted that “for those who do have access to the right technology, there is evidence that learning online can be more effective in a number of ways.

“Some research shows that on average, students retain 25 to 60 percent more material when learning online compared to only eight to 10 percent in a classroom.

“This is mostly due to the students being able to learn faster online; e-learning requires 40 to 60 percent less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because students can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they choose.”

My daughter uses technology in her Grade 2 and 3 class to make learning fun. She has shown us how she even uses TikTok to engage her pupils and keep them interested.

The pandemic has disrupted educational systems everywhere and the digital option looms large. But we are still so far away from effectively using online education in public schools.

Most likely, if Duterte changes his mind again and locks down schools, “can afford” children will learn via their computers and the poor ones will be left behind even more.

The key objective is to give our children the education they need to improve their prospects in life. Technology will help make that happen. It is up to us.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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