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Teaching in the time of COVID-19

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has been the biggest plot twist of 2020. With the beginning of a new year and a new decade at that, people around the world eagerly welcomed 2020. Unfortunately, with only a few months into 2020, the world suddenly found itself in the midst of a pandemic that has devastatingly claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

The impact of the pandemic is anything but negligible. When it made its presence known to the world, the concept of everyday life as we all knew it disappeared, leaving us to cope with the anxiety and stress of the unknown. Evidently, the pandemic has significantly impacted the education system in the country. With the government’s announcement of a national quarantine back in March, schools, universities, and colleges across the country found themselves in uncharted territory. Educational institutions in the country were forced to quickly adapt to online learning. Face-to-face classes were suddenly a thing of the past, while online learning became the norm.

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With the announcement of remote learning, as a professor, I was heavily concerned with how students in the country would be able to adapt to the same. Given the glaring inequalities present in the education system, a smooth and seamless transition to online learning was simply impossible. The reality is that not all students are equipped with the essential requirements of online learning, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet, or any other web-friendly device, and stable internet access. Students from low-income families or marginalized sectors have little to no access to digital infrastructure.

With the national implementation of a quarantine, businesses were forced either to stop or close down their operations, and employers had to impose pay cuts or implement layoffs. The country’s economy is already expected to fall into recession this year because of the pandemic. How then can we expect less privileged students to cope with the added costs of remote learning?

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Forced remote learning has highlighted the gross inequalities present in the education system. The potential of the pandemic to further widen existing inequalities in the education system cannot be overlooked. To do so would be a clear injustice to less privileged students. Hence, educational institutions in the country are called to devote their time and resources to implement flexible methods of learning and put forward initiatives that would attend to the prevalent inequalities in the education system.

Aside from technological concerns, educational institutions must take into account mental health problems that have been brought about by the pandemic. It is extremely difficult to function properly during a time that is far from what we are all accustomed to. The heightened anxiety and stress due to the pandemic are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. With the shift to online classes, students are tasked to deal with added stressors in their lives, such as the lack of daily routines and the pressure to learn independently. It would be unfair to assume that they would be able to function normally as if they were untouched by the harsh realities caused by the pandemic.

Unless a vaccine is discovered, the possibility of the resumption of face-to-face classes is bleak. It is of vital importance that the systems and processes found in the nation’s education system be reexamined and modified accordingly to adapt and respond to the present needs and concerns of society, particularly the plight of less privileged students. With the coming of a new academic year, educators are called to be vigilant during these challenging times. As educators, it is our duty to ensure that our students are equipped with the proper tools for them to efficiently and effectively learn through an online platform, despite the disruption the pandemic brings. As we continue to fight against the pandemic, let us make certain that no student is left behind.

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Anna Teresita A. Marcelo is a court attorney for the Supreme Court of the Philippines and a professorial lecturer in the De La Salle University College of Law and Centro Escolar University School of Law and Jurisprudence.

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TAGS: 2020 school opening, Anna Teresita A. Marcelo, Commentary, Distance Education, online classes, remote learning, teaching
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