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Schooling in COVID-19 time

/ 05:05 AM March 20, 2021

The severe weakening of the system of formal education has been another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. For school year 2020/21, the Department of Education required schools to implement any one, or a combination, of the following learning modalities, depending on local conditions:

1. Modular Distance Learning (MDL), with printed/digital modules provided by the schools; 2. Online Distance Learning (ODL), where students download learning materials and upload homework by internet; 3. TV/Radio-based Instruction (TVR); and 4. the traditional Face-to-Face (F2F) learning from teachers in classrooms, using proper health protocols. The first three are called “distance modalities.” The use of a combination of modalities is called “blended learning.”

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This is a very radical response to the pandemic. It essentially divorces students of all ages, even the youngest, from time-tested personal guidance by teachers, for fear that contamination between and among the two cannot be abated by use of health protocols like washing, masking, shielding, and distancing. MDL reminds me of correspondence courses for topics like typing or auto mechanics for students who already knew how to read, and follow written instructions, and had access to materials/equipment (a typewriter or a car) on which to practice.

The experience with these modalities is treated in four reports by Social Weather Stations (www.sws.org.ph) from questions asked of a national probability sample of 1,500 household heads, interviewed face to face with personal protective equipment, in their homes on Nov. 21-25, 2020. The reports are:

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Part 1. “87% of school-age Filipinos are currently enrolled in school, mostly in elementary and through Modular Distance Learning,” 2/24/21. Thus, 13 percent of the population age 5-20 was not enrolled. Of those enrolled, 80 percent had pure MDL, 14 percent had pure ODL, 1 percent had F2F, 0.1 percent had pure TVR, 4 percent had blended MDL-ODL, and 0.6 percent had blended MDL-F2F. Only in Metro Manila do a majority of students use pure/partial ODL, which allows them some virtual interaction with teachers.

The learning modules for the year are given periodically, every few weeks/months; someone from the family has go to the school to pick up new ones, and submit activity sheets for grading. There seems to be no student-teacher interaction.

Part 2. “58% of enrolled school-age Filipinos use devices for distance learning,” 3/1/21.The percentage with a device ranges from a high of 96 in Metro Manila to a low of 41 in Mindanao. Only 27 percent of students had one already. Among those without, 79 percent got a smartphone. Families who bought a device spent an average of P8,687 per student, ranging from P6,000-7,000 among those headed by non-high-school graduates to P14,800 among those headed by college graduates.

Part 3. “39% of families with members in online distance learning (ODL) have ‘strong’ internet connection; 29% have ‘fair,’ and 31% have ‘weak’ connections,” 3/5/21.The percentage with “strong” internet was 36 in Metro Manila, 46 in Balance Luzon, 38 in Visayas, and 29 in Mindanao. Eighty-six percent of ODL families spent an average of P901 per month as added internet expenses.

Part 4. “89% of families with enrolled school-age members say the current ‘blended learning system’ is more difficult than past face-to-face (F2F) learning,” 3/13/21.

I think this is the bottom line on the disruption to education from blended learning. Virtually 9 of every 10 household heads say the new system is more difficult; and 6 of the 9 call it “much more” difficult. Sixty percent of the families spend more time than before to guide/teach their children; it is the mother who becomes, in effect, a sub-teacher.

The only consolation in the survey is that 45 percent of the household heads say that their expenses for schooling have fallen, versus 37 percent that say the expenses have risen. I suppose they are grateful that, by staying home, their children need less money now for transportation, clothing, and baon, and that they would be happy to pay such costs when standard face-to-face learning comes back.

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TAGS: COVID-19, Department of Education, education, health crisis, pandemic, schooling, Social Weather Stations, study, SWS
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