Distance learning taking toll on teachers' physical, mental health — poll

Distance learning taking toll on teachers' physical, mental health â poll
In this July 2020 photo, a teacher at Jose Dela Peña National High School in Marikina City participates in a webinar on e-learning
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A nationwide survey has suggested that distance learning is negatively affecting the physical and mental wellbeing of more than a majority of public school teachers who were its respondents.

The poll, whose results were made public on Thursday, ran from March 29 to April 11. It had 6,731 respondents who are teaching from Kindergarten to Senior High School, where 5,303 were from Metro Manila and 1,428 were from 16 other regions.

It was conducted online by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, a group that has brought members's concerns to education officials over the year of distance learning.

Responses from the Metro Manila and the regions were similar, although ACT said the numbers were separated "for a comparative reading between the situation of the highly urbanized NCR [and] other regions which are rather amorphous in character in terms of the characteristics of the locality and levels of pandemic situation and quarantine level."

Some 75% of those outside NCR reported that while they "strive to get by with their tasks, they observe the negative impacts of their duties to physical health" with 76% of those in NCR reporting the same. 

"Alarmingly, 11% in other regions and 12% in the NCR said that they are already getting physically ill and are having difficulties in performing their duties," the survey said.

The poll added that 70% of teachers in other regions are facing mental health difficulties, while 71% in NCR shared the same sentiment. In the regions, 7% and 10% in NCR are "already getting mentally ill due to their burdensome duties," it continued.

Teachers said they also have had to rush reqired reports. Two of these are the Results-based Performance System, where they are asked for "modes of verification" for each task performed, and the Learning Delivery Modalities, or modules they answer to assess their teaching experience under distance learning.

"In regions outside NCR, 60% of teacher-respondents rated various rush reports as the 'heavy' and 'very heavy' duty for them," the survey said, "while 53% identified RPMS and 50% LDM as such. 

It added that in NCR, 67% found rush reports as "'burdensome' and 'very burdensome', while 61% rated RPMS and 58% identified LDM as the same."

"The implementation of distance learning saw the assignment of old and new tasks to teachers that have little or no connection to their teaching duties," the survey added, "or proved to be just too much to take amid the drastic adjustments that they have to make for the new teaching modalities."

ACT said 65% of respondents teach through printed modules, 8% use TV or radio-based instruction, and 7% through online asynchronous modes. Another 7% also hold online lessons to complement their classes.

Teachers working longer, even on weekends

Further, on working hours, the poll said a good number of teachers work past beyond eight hours. In Metro Manila, 41% of the respondents reported that they work longer than the said hours on class days, while 29% said the same in regions.

Even on days off, the ACT poll said 41% of those outside NCR work up to four hours, 45% between five to eight, and 13% for more than eight.

"NCR teachers work for more hours on rest days, with 37% spending four hours below," it continued, "43% for five to eight hours, and 18% for more than eight." 

Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general, said signs of a teacher burnout are evident from the survey's results. He urged government to address their prevailing problems urgently. 

"Being the backbone of education delivery, the labor situation of public school teachers must be swiftly attended to and be given due consideration in the plans for the opening of the new school year," he said in a statement.

The group proposed measures that it said would help teachers deliver education to millions amid the pandemic.

These include the granting of due compensation and benefits, hazard pay, as well as additional funding for distance learning needs. They also appealed to DepEd to ease workload, and provide funds for health and wellness support.

Distance learning in the Philippines began in October of last year. Teachers and students have said that difficulties could leave many behind, as suggested by the ACT poll along with others conducted in recent months. 

RELATEDGroup's surveys air concern on 'looming learning crisis' in Philippines

DepEd has said that the tentative opening of the next school year is on August 23, but there remains no word if the Duterte administration would give a go signal for resuming limited in-person classes under a safe reopening, which groups have called for.




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