‘Balik sa dating ugali’
Balik sa dating ugali” (BSDU — meaning, a return to old habits) is a phrase we reserve for Filipinos who renege on their public declarations to change their ways. Often, these declarations are made in the aftermath of attending a spiritual renewal program. The phrase might as well apply to what some of us appear to be going back to as our COVID-19 situation appears to improve.
To be fair, this variant of BSDU is understandable. Families and individuals have been cooped up at home for almost two years. Everyone just wants to have their “revenge” travels. Just last week, some of my students emailed that since they were with their families in remote beach resorts, they would probably not be able to make it to our synchronous sessions.
On a related note, our economy still requires reviving despite the “third quarter surprise” of 7.1 percent GDP growth. Businesses and livelihoods are still recovering. My friend only found a new job recently after being on furlough for months. Another friend was forced by her employer to work one day a week and is paid accordingly.
As we go out more frequently and revive the economy, I hope this BSDU variant will not lead to a return to five days of face-to-face schooling and onsite work.
We now know that the COP26, although well-meaning, did not conclude with radical reforms that could reverse humanity’s continuing march to extinction via the climate crisis. To go back to five days of face-to-face schooling and onsite work is to ignore the urgent need for us to scale down our consumption of fossil fuels and rethink schooling and work. Already, the Inquirer reported last Nov. 19 that traffic in the metro is “starting to go back to pre-pandemic levels.”
To go back to five days of face-to-face schooling and onsite work is to throw away one to two hours of our lives in the morning and another one to two hours in the afternoon—time which we could otherwise use for productive work, exercise, and rest. While new road projects were recently completed, most of our roads have not been widened. Apart from causing heavier traffic and more pollution, going back to daily commuting would lead to more traffic altercations, more accidents, and higher stress levels.
Lastly, to go back to five days of face-to-face schooling and onsite work is to ignore the added value of online learning and video conferencing. Through learning management systems like Canvas and Google Classroom, all my students can contribute more meaningfully to each discussion compared to how things were pre-pandemic when only the most outspoken would recite. Meetings are also more efficient to conduct through video conferencing, because apps like Zoom make it easier to practice hard stops within the agreed meeting time.
Instead of going back to the way things were, a blended, sectoral, and task-based return might serve us in good stead.
Blended. For the sake of personal connection, there could be days in the week that students and employees are in school and in the workplace respectively. Using what the philosopher Aristotle calls “the golden mean” which is neither too little nor too much depending on the context of those concerned, schools and businesses can consult with their stakeholders on what is optimal.
Sectoral. Instead of all economic sectors being on the road five times a week, our kababayan whose jobs and businesses require transportation should be prioritized. The same thing with schooling. We should give up our right to use our roads for our students and teachers who do not have the resources to avail themselves of laptops, tablets, and the internet.
Task-based. Within organizations, tasks where personal interface is essential should be identified. A surgical procedure is necessarily an in-person task compared to a telemedicine consultation. In schools, courses that require face-to-face meetings should be differentiated from those that do not. Lab work in chemistry is one such example, compared to philosophy. Between graduate-level tasks that can be done online and grade-level tasks that compete with YouTube and Roblox, the latter clearly requires onsite supervision.
The world has irreversibly changed since March 16, 2020. Shouldn’t we radically change our ways as well?
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Von Katindoy is a parent, a teacher, and a student based in the metro. He used to get up with his wife Elaine at 3:45 a.m. so their children could ride the school bus at 5 a.m.
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