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The Learning curve

Learning cannot wait

It is easy to see why the education sector has been identified as one of the top 10 industries in the country affected by the pandemic—the uncertain job situation for faculty and staff, the schools struggling with maintaining their operating expenses, the enrollment drop because of economic reverses, and most daunting and critical of all, what to do with the instruction and learning for students beyond Aug. 24.

If the Department of Education (DepEd) was already struggling with many start-of-the-year challenges during normal times, how might it be able to cope better in these extraordinary times?

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The jargon “blended learning” sounds so impressive in theory, but day by day it is being pointed out that online learning will only highlight the social inequity that exists. Who can afford the devices needed for online learning, and how to sustain it with reliable internet connectivity? The latest proposal is to run lessons on radio—so the current focus is providing students with transistor radios.

DepEd Commons (https://icedrive.net/1/94azUBJEdn) has issued the learning modules for Grades 1-10 students that may be downloaded and printed out. These are not only worksheets but entire books, it appears. A concerned citizen examined the Nursery level materials and discovered this: 17 files, or a total of 1,093 pages or two and one-fifth reams of bond paper, in full color.

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She was appalled to see on a Grade 5 English locally developed handout, ironically on following directions, the strangest directions, such as “Draw Chinese eyes…” But I leave that kind of investigation, if need be, to Antonio Calipjo Go.

Can every family with public school students download and print these modules out? Thus, the widespread appeal to citizens to assist the children of their household staff by printing these out or photocopying for them. I was initially alarmed because of copyright restrictions, and was relieved to see on the foreign books’ copyright pages for the upper grades that publishers’ permission was sought. But just how meaningful are these voluminous worksheets without teacher direction? Will all these handouts a critical thinker make? Will worksheets breed lifelong learners?

I trust that the teacher will provide the necessary incentives to turn doing these sheets into a game, a fun activity. And where were storybooks for students to just enjoy? Where is the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education in all these? It seems only proper that Vice President Leni Robredo has made a call for “creative minds” to make instructional videos.

Some of the titles I saw were: “100 Words Kids Need to Read by 1st Grade,” “Colors and Shapes,” “Max and Ruby Alphabet.” And a Garfield workbook. I hope that the curriculum planners are aware that we have many excellent counterpart titles from our Philippine publishers.

I still maintain that the best way for students to learn, especially during these times, is for them to read whatever printed materials they can access. That is why the two balikbayan boxes of books, magazines, games that have just arrived at the Sta. Romana Memorial School in Sta. Arcadia, Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, through the longstanding Books for the Barrios initiative of Nancy Harrington, are considered heaven-sent by principal Maricel Garcia Candido and her 15 teachers.

The staff are developing a book borrowing program for their Learning Continuity Plan. It would be a perfect supplement to the modular approach or the home study program developed for their community. Online learning is out of the question there, with internet connectivity not available to all, as the school survey revealed.

I take a special interest in the school because it was started with a donation of 10,930 square meters of land by my paternal grandparents, Leonardo Aleta Sta. Romana and Gorgonia Osias, decades ago to affirm the value of education, having raised 11 children who all became professionals. It was formally turned over by the heirs to the DepEd last year, when the school was renamed the Leonardo A. Sta. Romana Memorial Elementary School.

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The book donation was made possible by my son-in-law, Dr. Edmundo Duldulao of Kaiser Permanente in northern California. It was he whom Books for the Barrios coordinated with.

It is some relief to know that there are schools and organizations concerned about continuing to adjust to the unique learning needs of students. It takes more than just a village to do that.

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

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TAGS: books, Books for the Barrios, class schedule, covid-19 philippines, DepEd, education, learning, school year
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