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What is the essence of Education?

By KHRISTIAN ROSS PIMENTEL

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Amid our nation’s battle against the pandemic, education is a priority, alongside public safety and economic concerns. Much of the debate centers on the question: Should we resume classes in August? As a teacher in a public school, I ask instead: How should we decide?

I am reminded of when my advisory class begins choosing their senior high schools, asking themselves: this school or that school. Every year, representatives flock to our Grade 10 classroom promoting their schools with freebies, good-looking models, and glossy flyers. They sell their schools as if they were simply an enticing commodity.

Some of my students choose schools with a nice uniform, maybe even a population of heartthrobs. Some go for a school with a lot of extracurricular activities such as fairs, field trips, and concerts. Some go for a campus with stunning facilities. Bigger, supposedly better.

At the end of the day, however, a students’ education will not prosper solely among these perks and privileges. The outward appearance of the package, as well as its lofty promises, cannot guarantee quality education. It is so much more than that.

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When I first taught Grade 10 we started the school year in a new building. The floor had no tiles or coating. We had to apply floor wax mixed with kerosene. The walls were not painted. We had to scrub everything to get rid of the dust. There was no electric fan, only fluorescent lamps that would go out, so we sometimes continued our class without lights. Construction was still ongoing, the sound of the hammer, the smell of the paint, the movement of workers all around us.

My students experienced a crowded, distracting, messy school environment that lacked many things. But that did not hinder them. We all worked hard that year. Instead of complaining, they chose to pursue learning, becoming more decisive and persistent, as I constantly reminded them of the dreams they wanted to pursue.

At the end of the school year, they completed junior high school, some with honors despite their hardships. They went on to senior high schools knowing that the essence of education did not simply rely on the tangible, physical aspects. The success of any education resides in the mindset of the people: the student, the teacher, even the community. How far are we all willing to go? How strong is our passion? How determined are we to work hard amid all adversities?

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Now during this pandemic, it’s not only in choosing a school that worries students, parents, and teachers. We are also concerned about whether or not to resume the school year in August.

We have a long list of reasons not to begin it, but we are offered a lot of alternatives as well. It is about time to stop focusing on what we can’t do at the moment and start considering what we can. We cannot get too afraid or too cynical while there are still many out there busy trying to revive hope where possible.

I believe that schools should only resume if we can guarantee the safety of teachers and students, and that is based on one of the proposals of the Department of Education (DepEd). We cannot do it face-to-face. Whether distance education, online classes, modular approach, or whatever it may be, students will only learn if we understand the essence of education in our lives.

Students, parents, teachers, administrators, local government units, and even the private sector work hand in hand to make sure that all students get equal access.

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We teachers will always keep doing our jobs, regardless of these dilemmas, not just because it’s our job, but because it is our calling. We will continue to serve our nation and teach our children. We are not asking for a perfect scenario, which we know may never come. We simply ask that all people involved, from students to teachers to parents, be taken into account. We teachers also need to be supported as well and not left in the dark.

Teacher training is a must, but it only succeeds when teachers are guided on theories translated into practices, strategies, and techniques based on actual performance. DepEd and school administrators need to engage directly with teachers, or those webinars are futile no matter how beautiful and promising they appear on slide decks.

Parents’ participation is also greatly needed. Parents should encourage their children to pursue an education in a modality that they can access and support teachers for their children. They should continue to let their voices be heard as educators continue to look for remedies.

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Both national and local governments should provide the support needed to make teaching and learning possible. The entire nation is rooting for a component government that is not only capable of making dynamic decisions and policies but also decisive in providing services to all of its citizens.

Putting whatever efforts we can into educating our children is worth the gamble. We need to make sure that our youth are capable of surviving this pandemic, and working on the world even after the health crisis is over. It is only when we get our act together that our students will be able to receive an education, even in these most trying times.

Khristian Ross Pimentel is a public school master teacher in Antipolo City, having taught for six years. He is a graduate of UP Diliman with a master’s degree in educational psychology.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/06/03/what-is-the-essence-of-education/)

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