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Commentary

Malcontent

The subjects or topics covered in a book or textbook is called its content or contents. The content is the total amount of substance contained within a book and is, therefore, its heart and soul. As the compendium of what teachers will teach in a particular subject and the totality of what students will consequently learn, content is the end-all and be-all of the entire teaching-learning process.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the way teachers teach and students learn has undergone a drastic sea change from the traditional face-to-face classroom setup to other modes of learning delivery. The Marian School decided to implement full online or digital delivery of the prescribed learning competencies to its students.

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The Department of Education (DepEd) opted to use “self-learning” modules instead, which it will distribute to the respective barangay halls (or public schools) for pick-up by the parents of pupils studying in public schools. These modules will then be brought home, where the parents are supposed to use them to teach their own children or where the students are expected to use them to “self-learn.” Whether this scheme will work is still to be seen, but my deepest concern for now is the quality and integrity of the content of these modules.

During the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s webinar titled “Education in Focus: The Classroom at Home,” broadcast live on the Facebook page of Inquirer.net last July 31, 2020, Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said: “In the course of implementing blended learning, the DepEd should not centralize the distribution and reproduction of learning materials because that would be a big nightmare. The DepEd decided that learning materials would be reproduced at the ground level—in the regions, divisions, and schools. It is not the Central Office that would tell schools what to use. They will be guided depending on what resources they have at home or school, and they will make decisions whether to do online classes or use learning modules.”

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This means that the public school system will have as many versions of these modules as there are regions in the Philippines! (There are 17.) It may even be that each public school gets to develop its own “self-learning” modules. Even more worrisome is the possibility that public school teachers are being made to write the modules pertaining to the subjects they were assigned to teach.

Emilio Abelita, chair of the Parents Teachers Alliance of Antipolo City, in his letter to the editor titled “Defer reopening of classes” (Opinion, 7/31/2020), brought out two important points: (1) “Uniform teaching modules are yet to be finalized, as the teachers tasked to prepare them were not professionally trained to do so, the same being the function of the DepEd Curriculum Bureau…”; (2) “The 4Ps Program was conceived to prompt parents to send their children to school… Blended learning, premised on parents’ willingness and competence to teach their children schoolwork, will negate this objective.”

Even with its immense financial and material resources and its huge army of well-paid personnel, the DepEd is really not ready and not prepared to carry out its state-mandated duty and responsibility to educate Filipino public school students properly and correctly during this pandemic. It rather chose to literally pass on to the public school teachers, the poor parents of public school pupils, and the poor unfortunate pupils themselves the oppressive and onerous decisions to: (1) choose the mode of instruction, and (2) choose the teaching modules to be used in each class, in each school, and in each region.

Who wrote those modules? What are their credentials? What is to be expected of the quality of a product that was produced at breakneck speed? Who did the checking and evaluation? Should these modules not follow a set template or prescribed national standard? Did the printing of millions of these modules pass through the proper procurement process?

And how can you expect the parents of poor public school students to teach when they have not been properly taught or trained, when many of them are uneducated themselves, working or saddled with the back-breaking burden of daily housekeeping or earning a livelihood?

Knowledge, learning, news and information, whichever way they are expressed, communicated, and delivered, must at all times, and moreso in a time of chaos and disorder, be relevant, accurate, and correct. Right content is the only remedy for malcontent.

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Antonio Calipjo Go is academic supervisor of the Marian School of Quezon City.

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TAGS: 2020 school opening, Antonio calipjo go, Commentary, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19, Distance Education, online classes, public school system
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