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The Learning curve

Learning in the time of quarantine

It is well and good that a semblance of “normalcy” is being attempted in these trying times, with adult professionals working from home and students continuing their school day schedules through technology, which makes possible class meetings and teacher consultations. And yet, how apparent it is once more to see the glaring inequality among our social classes.

There are amazing online resources to be accessed from developed countries for every discipline and for every conceivable interest. But looking at our local setting, I wondered: Can our home internet handle all our peak activities all day long? Do all homes have the luxury of technological connectivity? Is there a laptop or an iPad in every home?

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It’s the public school population I am concerned about. Private schools have made different arrangements for a proper end-of-year closure, with many of them indicating that their teachers had sufficient data in the course of the school year to justify their final grades, even without gathering the students for the usual final exam.

Happily, the Department of Education reported through Undersecretary Anne Sevilla that when exams were administered this week, students came in small groups, still in keeping with social distancing. To prepare for similar contingencies in the future, and with Education Secretary Leonor Briones emphatic that “Education must continue even in times of crisis, whether it may be a calamity, disaster, emergency, quarantine or even war,” the department has initiated the DepEd Commons, an online platform of resources for public school teachers to use whenever distance learning is required. It may be accessed at https://commons.deped.gov.ph.

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Again, there is a subtle warning about the limitations of technology, for it asks that one should not quit but try as much as possible to access one’s school based on the drop-down choices.

I was eager to know more about these teacher-developed resources but was denied access, because I did not have the name of a public school or a school ID to input, an initial requirement. I will still find a way one of these days, especially since the DepEd Commons is a work in progress. And I do seriously worry about the public school education we are providing. Inquiries may be made at [email protected], according to the DepEd Commons opening page.

If internet connectivity is not always easily available in homes, there would certainly be phones, if only for continuing Facebook connectivity. That is why for me, the week’s biggest happy news is that two outstanding talents in Philippine children’s literature have offered classes for stay-at-home children.

A proposed class schedule online always includes time for students to engage in learning that gives them choices for nontraditional sources of fun and enjoyment. And who could better offer this than talented illustrator Robert Alejandro and award-winning writer in Filipino, Genaro Gojo Cruz? Alejandro has had a head start with his daily 10-11 a.m. drawing classes, which have attracted both children and adults locally and overseas. He is the “ro” in the family-owned arts and crafts store Papemelroti we all love. He is charming and nonthreatening when he does his lessons—no formal lecture, just follow his intricate strokes and light banter. Of course, Alejandro knows how to use media, having had experience in television work and being accustomed to TV interviews. He was recently at the Singapore Art Museum to give art lessons to children.

I only caught Cruz’s own session Thursday night. It was a maiden experimental performance for him, something that he said grew from his “inip” (boredom). A wonderful output of his boredom and ennui is his idea of reading the big book version of his story, “Ang Lumang Aparador ni Lola.” The audience was also treated to his story behind the writing of the book and his Lola memories. Cruz, a professor at De La Salle, had for his audience his former students, who confessed with much awe and admiration about still being intimidated by his questions, and who now listened with their children. I am not overly concerned about Cruz’s supposed boredom, because we know him to be one writer who can easily whip up one good story after another.

At both times, my home internet was not at its best, even with the supposedly upgraded PLDT Fibr. Still, with or without Wi-Fi, no one needs to lose out while we work and study indoors.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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