Learning, well-being and community
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - September 8, 2020 - 12:00am

Some schools have already started their remote classes in the elementary, high school and college levels over two weeks ago. This even if the official school opening has been moved to October 5. These are schools that offer basic education under higher education, and according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, these schools may be allowed to continue with their classes under remote or blended learning mode.

At UP Cebu classes are scheduled to start this Thursday, September 10, also under the remote learning mode. I’ll be handling a course there this semester on communication and media laws and ethics.

For weeks teachers have been orienting and retooling themselves under the new normal in education. Various webinars have been conducted to help educators come up with online learning modules and course packs.

Remote or blended learning mode is new to most teachers. Even for those who are quite adept at information technology like me, this coming semester could be a tale of trial and error. There is still no better substitute for learning in a physical classroom and school setting. I’m sure we will go back immediately to in-person classes once health authorities determine that it is safe to do so for everybody.

Despite the race to develop an effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, we are still hovering in uncertainty. The good news is that COVID-19 transmissions have flattened out or slowed down in 107 countries and regions, including in the hot spots of the U.S. and Brazil.

Our own health officials and experts have also confirmed the same trend happening in the Philippines. Meanwhile the World Health Organization still presses the need for close monitoring of the infection trend and continued implementation of public health measures.

Plans for this school year, however, cannot remain in limbo. We have to start somewhere, no matter the immense challenges we face now and foresee ahead. We often talk about saving the economy and restarting its growth, yet those efforts demand the availability of trained professionals and skilled labor. A prolonged interruption along the educational chain, without us looking for ways to adjust to the new normal, is bound to hurt us.

So where do we start? I think remote learning will not work if we merely focus on the learning aspect. We must include in the equation the well-being and community aspects. School programs and course teaching must make sure that everyone is safe and well. School administrators, teachers and student organizations must also work together to strengthen the school community through various online activities. These require a lot of flexibility in our teaching methods to ultimately ensure that we achieve our learning outcomes.

What I did before the opening of classes this week was to make myself available for consultation with students enrolled in my course. Many of them have responded positively to my call and thus we learned from each other’s situation under this pandemic.

I learned, for example, that students share their internet bandwidth with four to eight persons in the household. Others live under the constant fear that their parents’ livelihood might be in danger or that a working member of the household might contract the virus from his or her workplace. Students appeal for compassion and kindness, while I as a teacher implore their sense of integrity and responsibility for their own learning.

Teachers must now think of ways to blend compassion with the discipline of ensuring that learning outcomes are achieved. We should be open to constant iterations in course design as we go along.

EDUCATION
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