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What Filipino Teachers Think of Online Classes

By JESSICA PAG-IWAYAN

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The global pandemic has changed the way we live, from the way we communicate, the way we see the outside world, and even the way children are acquiring their education.

According to a UNESCO report, governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions due to the health crisis, affecting 70 percent of the world’s student population. In the Philippines, the sudden closure of schools affects 27 million students, leaving the learners and the educators in an abyss of uncertainties, asking questions about how to make up the remaining school days and what lies ahead.

Whether in public or private schools, one of the solutions proposed in order to continue on with the upcoming school year is to conduct online classes. But is our current education system ready for this integral change?

Education Secretary Leonor Briones

Education Secretary Leonor Briones

Manila Bulletin Lifestyle speaks to several educators who share their experiences as teachers in the middle of this pandemic,  discussing how they are coping with the challenges involved.

Online classes: the common denominator between the poor and the middle class?

During quarantine, public school teachers began holding online classes. Allan del Rosario, a head teacher at Claro M. Recto High School, however, tells us that this was not an initial order from the Department of Education (DepEd). Rather, it was an initiative by the teachers trying to find the best way to help their students continue their studies.

“There was no instruction from DepEd. What we did [was] we conducted [online] remedial classes for students who [had] one to two failed subjects,” he says. “It was a school initiative and not mandatorily ordered by the higher authorities.”

M Claro High school,

Claro M. Recto High School, photo from their FB page

While they were able to prevent a number of students from repeating the same year level, not everything ran smoothly. “To some extent, it was successful,” he continues. “But since the majority of our students are within and below the poverty line, the availability of gadgets and [stable] Internet connection was a struggle.”

There are similar stories l from other teachers, both in public and private schools.

“My students who are currently enrolled in my summer class are very fortunate to come from families that can provide their needs when it comes to online classes,” says Camille Erika Jan Velasco, a philosophy teacher at Far Eastern University (FEU) senior high, a private education institution. Nonetheless, she emphasizes that it does not make teaching virtually easier. “They are still having difficulties when it comes to stable Internet connection and electricity.”

She raises the issue of the limitations of synchronous and asynchronous classes, and openly admits that, just like her students, she too is adjusting with this new way of teaching. “It is difficult to see the faces of each other,” adds Camille. “It makes it hard, if not impossible, to read non-verbal cues and reactions.”

Illustration by Ariana Maralit

Illustration by Ariana Maralit

While private school students are equipped with learning tools like Microsoft Office, Canvas, and Edmodo, students from public schools communicate through free messaging services like Messenger. But one grade eight public school teacher we have interviewed estimates “only 50 to 60 percent of the students are reached.”

What do our teachers need?

Teachers reluctantly admit that the current DepEd materials are insufficient. At T. Paez Integrated School, one teacher recounts how after logging into DepEd Commons, she finds only one module for the grade eight science class she teaches. And while she hopes to see more content from DepEd in the future, another teacher points out that downloading (typed in all capital letters) the files is too costly for many students.

“Prioritize seminars for teachers for their advancement in technology,” one Araling Panlipunan teacher at Florentino Torres High School suggests. His colleague adds, “We need better planning and intuitive policy making from administrators.”

Florentine Torres High School, photo from Facebook

Florentine Torres High School, photo from Facebook

Back at Claro M. Recto High School, Allan describes how the school division office is creating new modules designed for this new education setup. But he also admits that, despite this preparation, the lack of gadgets, stable Internet connection, and strict rules prohibiting students to visit computer shops are among the many tough challenges, both educators and leaders are having difficulty overcoming.

“CHED [Commission on Higher Education] and DepEd failed to provide us with teaching tools and instructions for this transition. We are just fortunate that our school has the means to help us with this and continue to provide us with free seminars and training,” says Camille, grateful that private schools are able to support educators. “Although DepEd has its DepEd Commons […] information dissemination is very poor and there is no consideration for educators with no means and access to the Internet or gadgets.”

Despite these challenges, our teachers remain fully committed to their students, trying their best to fulfill their duties as educators, and hoping that in cooperation and unity the education sector will surpass these challenges.

“We must not forget that education is a right, not a privilege,” Camille says. “If we fail to address the issue of accessibility of education but still go on to transition fully to distant learning, then we are deliberately depriving the students of their right to education.”


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/06/04/what-filipino-teachers-think-of-online-classes/)

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