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Business

Making up for learning loss

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

A hundred of 61,000 public schools is a miniscule fraction, but nevertheless an important start that could build confidence in reopening more schools in areas where the coronavirus infection rates are zero – and I’m sure there are many more.

The photos published of how classrooms and classes look like in selected sites depict an abundance of caution, although slips like a teacher improperly wearing her face mask (her nose is exposed) and the presence of soldiers are reminders that the basic reasons for pandemic-related health and safety protocols are not well understood.

Still, such “lapses” may not really matter, when the people living in the communities where the chosen schools participating in the Department of Education’s pilot run, may have only read or heard about people afflicted by the virus, or the overcrowding of hospital ICUs.

In fact, putting plastic barriers around desks may not really matter if the classrooms are well-ventilated and are in an environment where the school building sits on grounds where there is an abundance of foliage, as is the case of many of rural public schools.

Classroom hours are still shorter, but this at least allows pupils to ease back into the more structured face-to-face learning through which teachers and students are able to get back to a learning track that assures better guidance and assimilation of knowledge.

Inequities

While the DepEd continues with the blended learning approach to avoid having too many students in a classroom, teachers should take advantage of the opportunity to personally interact with their students to better gauge the severity of learning loss.

The pandemic has stolen almost two years of Filipino learners’ precious time needed to prepare for a better future that recognizes a more intense competition awaiting them when they leave school and start looking for work opportunities.

So much learning inequities have been exposed during the pandemic, with the more affluent students adequately supported with remote learning tools – trained and qualified teachers, high-speed internet, and high-end tech gadgets – will have earned that decisive qualification edge.

For many of our less-privileged students, not only will the local job market be tougher, but even competition in coveted overseas jobs may find them lacking compared to those from other nations that had been able to provide better catching up learning interventions.

Accelerators

As this pandemic winds down, the government must now seriously consider earnestly implementing an education accelerator approach, wherein teachers will not only look at what their students have missed during the months holed up in remote learning, but also to find ways to retrieve lost knowledge.

If there is one valuable lesson that the pandemic has exposed, it is the potential supplemental value that digital learning tools can provide to students to catch up on learning -- and we’re not just talking about having those Macs and huge computer screens for studying and teaching.

For most Filipino children in public schools, having simple digital devices and cheaper internet access will be a big boost. Many have become adept at using Google or other digital search engines in doing their research assignments, and with additional proper guidance, this could unlock the needed learning to fill up knowledge gaps.

Just as the government has committed to help affected business sectors during the pandemic recover through credit sources, education similarly deserves equal investment opportunities. One idea is to equip all public schools with internet services to allow students, even on an appointment basis, to tap in without cost.

Smart phones, tablets and laptops are basic gadgets that should be encouraged and made available at subsidized or even installment rates through partnerships between the private sector and our public education institutions.

Not least, teachers should be incentivized to deliver quality education. Let’s think of giving bonuses to the faculty of schools that are able to get a high percentage of their graduates to achieve outstanding grades in government standardization tests.

There’s a wealth of ideas that can be clarified and transformed into effective interventions that will facilitate the much-needed acceleration of learning for our students.

Let’s remember too that even before the pandemic struck, Filipino students from both public and private schools were already behind in cognitive knowledge, with mathematics, reading, and sciences ratings in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) among the lowest.

It’s time to brush up on the proposed DepEd interventions that will address the glaring education gap and start implementation of programs to reform teaching competencies towards encouraging inquisitive learning rather than just memorization.

Taking action

The Philippines is already one of the last countries to ease back to face-to-face learning, even though the damage has been substantial resulting from the long months when teachers were unable to personally gauge, supervise, and help students encountering difficulties.

Much more will have to be done other than preparing for more schools to open to classroom learning, and this should be what the DepEd, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) must focus on now.

It’s may be too late for any accelerator programs to be incorporated in the 2022 budget deliberations, but a concerted effort by the three pillars of the state education system is still possible to come up with a plan that will ensure that our students will not be left behind.

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We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at [email protected]. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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