Education in the time of COVID
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - July 1, 2020 - 12:00am

President Duterte reiterated his order not to allow resumption of classes until a coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 vaccine is available. But what is the alternative?

Shifting to digital classrooms just isn’t possible in our country. Not even the blended mode that the education secretary was talking about.

Not only does the DepEd not have enough laptops or tablets for such an endeavor, we do not have a broadband infrastructure that can handle it. As for the transistor radio that Duterte said he would buy, I don’t think we have developed classroom modules for radio. Teaching is audio visual.

The other alternative is to let our children be idle for a year or more while waiting for an anti-covid vaccine. That is not a good alternative because our pupils are not doing well in international rating tests as it is. A hiatus in learning will set them back some more and adversely affect their future and the country’s. Interestingly, my grandson in Singapore is back in school.

There is, however, a viable option, but only if our politicians will swallow their pride, stop bashing ABS-CBN and accept their offer to use the Knowledge Channel for distance education. That may be too high a price to pay. Just let the children remain ignorant.

The offer is on the table. Knowledge Channel said it is prepared to partner with the government, with its decades-worth of materials for home-based education. As I had previously explained here, Knowledge Channel has produced more than 1,000 educational videos in consultation with Department of Education (DepEd), and later, based on the K-12 curriculum.

Knowledge Channel said its existing content matches 50 percent the DepEd’s revised most essential learning competencies (MELC) in the form of video lessons for K-10. This set of MELC, a narrowed list in light of the transition to non-traditional learning, could be implemented when the school year starts on Aug. 24.

“What we want to do now is to produce the other 50 percent to complete our offering,” Edric Calma, KCFI head for operations said in a statement.

Television-based instruction is one of the methods DepEd has specified for distance learning, along with printed or digital modules, and online learning resources such as the DepEd Commons.

With its extensive video library, produced specifically for home viewing and with session guides, KCFI is uniquely positioned to immediately address the need for modules for learning through TV or other visual media.

Knowledge Channel, through its TV programming, has also long aired its educational programs according to grade level, with daily or thrice per week video lessons, Calma explained.

“We are keen on implementing this grid and partnering with schools divisions. We also devised an assessment plan to help teachers and parents find out if their young learners are learning well,” he said.

Aside from its online platforms, Knowledge Channel is seen in four million homes through Sky, Sky Direct and other cable and direct-to-home satellite services. Formerly, it was accessible to two million more homes through ABS-CBN TVPlus, until the forced shutdown of the network’s broadcast.

An emergency provisional authority to broadcast digitally via TVPlus is a way to help bring Knowledge Channel to more homes, especially those with no access to pay-TV or the internet.

Knowledge Channel’s content has also been converted into a “portable media library,” or a preloaded external hard drive  which can be distributed.

“We are eager to collaborate with like-minded organizations and individuals so we can produce or acquire more video lessons, provide access to these resources, and help teachers and parents support our young learners as they learn,” Calma said.

Knowledge Channel Foundation president Rina Lopez-Bautista said the organization is “prepared to help DepEd and parents be ready for the incoming school year.

“But we are also preparing for the future,” she said.

“While our curriculum-based video lessons are available on cable TV, online, and offline, we continue to explore more education solutions for every possible context to ensure more relevant learning for every Filipino.”

There it is, a solution to our education dilemma for our public school students being offered on a silver platter. Hopefully, neither politics nor false pride from politicians will prevent our pupils from getting their education in the time of covid.

Banks in time of Covid

The Monetary Board (MB) unexpectedly cut policy rates by 50 basis points late last week, bringing the key overnight borrowing rate to 2.25 percent. It is evident from its statement that the MB is worried about economic growth.

But, as a NY-based think tank observed, banks are not lending as hoped, with monies parked in the BSP’s deposit facilities rising from a little over P800 billion in end-April to over P1.2 trillion in the first week of June.

“Notwithstanding multilateral agencies’ updated GDP forecasts this month that are only slightly below government’s low-end -3.4 percent target, we think our more pessimistic negative seven percent growth forecast in our May 26 report remains appropriate especially given the difficulties we’ve observed of restarting the economy under distancing protocols.”

Talking of banks, there was a lively exchange in one of my Viber groups:

Says one: “My take is while BSP is cutting lending rates, do the banks really plow it back to their clients by also reducing their loan interest rates? Banks are placing their liquidity to the BSP and earn from it, but at the same time are also maintaining high loan interest rates for their clients (at least for the small-time consumer loans or MSMES)...”

Says another: “Banks claim they need the much better margins for loan loss provisions.

“With this new 50 bps reduction the total reduction that BSP has done from Feb.-June will be over 125 bps already... This plus aside from the RRR  reduction... and low savings interest which is almost zero percent... yet the government monetary/financial stimulus package seems to favor the banks more than the target MSMES and lowly consumers and ordinary savers??”

Still another: “Is the ultimate question here: Are banks taking advantage of the situation?  Also good to study if the sector is over-regulated- i.e. banks have to pass on that burden to someone.”

Oh well… here’s hoping everyone helps everyone recover from the impact of this virus.

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

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