Dis­tance learn­ing hur­dles

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - COMMENTARY - Ma­ca­bangkit B. Lanto Email: am­b_­mac_lanto@ ya­hoo.com

My grand­chil­dren were rest­less for three days. There has been no In­ter­net sig­nal in our area, and their mother was vent­ing her ir­ri­ta­tion on them. The “per­sonal hotspot” on our cel­lu­lar phones was not strong enough to gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient sig­nal. Every morn­ing, they ob­serve their rote of a bath, change into clean clothes and pre­pare to face their teacher through the In­ter­net. They com­plain about miss­ing their al­lowance now that their bed­room has be­come their class­room. They sorely miss the laugh, ban­ter and play with their class­mates af­ter classes.

This nar­ra­tive is just one of the hur­dles in dis­tance learn­ing. The pan­demic has forced the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (DepEd) to adopt un­con­ven­tional meth­ods to help stave off its grow­ing men­ace. The scare had ed­u­ca­tional au­thor­i­ties think­ing about the use of com­puter tech­nol­ogy as a method of in­struc­tion. Al­though the mode has long been tested and prac­ticed suc­cess­fully in ad­vanced grad­u­ate and post-grad­u­ate stud­ies, it was never ap­plied in the lower level of ed­u­ca­tion — pri­mary, sec­ondary and ter­tiary.

The shift from tra­di­tional class­room and black­board style of learn­ing to video cha­t­room or vir­tual learn­ing is eas­ier said than done. There are in­trin­sic prob­lems, es­pe­cially in the coun­try­side, which gov­ern­ment will be hard-pressed to ad­dress. And gov­ern­ment seems to be flip-flop­ping when to open classes for pub­lic schools. Early on, the Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion an­nounced it would open last month, Au­gust, only to move it to a later date al­legedly to make more prepa­ra­tions.

The prob­lem oc­ca­sion­ally ex­pe­ri­enced by my grand­chil­dren over In­ter­net glitches and bugs is a mi­cro­cosm of the sit­u­a­tion pre­vail­ing out­side

Metro Manila on In­ter­net learn­ing. We read of heartrend­ing re­ports of stu­dents do­ing on­line learn­ing in a Tarzan-like tree­house or at an el­e­vated open space where In­ter­net sig­nal on their smart­phone is strong. This search for a good spot for In­ter­net sig­nal be­comes a prob­lem in a ge­o­graph­i­cally de­pressed low area where there is hardly any con­nec­tiv­ity. And it gets worse in ar­eas where poverty is preva­lent and with­out elec­tric power.

The DepEd should de­vise a teach­ing method pre­pared spe­cially for those ar­eas. In fact, it should be flex­i­ble to al­low tra­di­tional in-per­son

teach­ing in

“Shift from tra­di­tional class­room and black­board style of learn­ing to video cha­t­room or vir­tual learn­ing is eas­ier said than done.

re­mote ar­eas where there are no re­ported cases of COVID-19. This should ap­ply like­wise in ar­eas where the sig­nal is of­ten weak, in­ter­mit­tent and with not enough power to con­nect to the In­ter­net. A hy­brid of on­line and in-per­son learn­ing is prac­ti­ca­ble to ad­dress the dilemma.

There could be a dis­con­nect be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents on dig­i­tal learn­ing where there is hardly a show of per­sonal emo­tions and in­ti­mate in­ter­ac­tions be­tween them. The fo­cus of stu­dents is dis­rupted by the fact that they are fac­ing a screen in­stead of their teach­ers, whose per­sonal pres­ence con­trib­utes very much in the ef­fec­tive­ness of teach­ing and learn­ing process. The stu­dents are de­prived of re­act­ing promptly to the teacher’s lec­ture and dis­cussing the lessons dur­ing break­time.

Top­ping these prob­lems is the poverty of those in the mar­gins of so­ci­ety. The par­ents are more con­cerned with find­ing food on the ta­ble than buy­ing a com­puter, smart­phone, tablet and lap­top and other gad­gets. Gov­ern­ment will have to spend a for­tune to fill this void.

It will be a tough job for au­thor­i­ties in the Bangsamoro Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion in Mus­lim Min­danao. In na­tion­wide poll sur­veys, the re­gion tops the most num­ber of com­po­nent prov­inces oc­cu­py­ing the high­est rung in the poverty in­dex. The prob­lem is am­pli­fied in its re­mote ar­eas. Many have yet to ex­pe­ri­ence elec­tric­ity, which is a must in dig­i­tal learn­ing. And even with elec­tric power, both stu­dents and teach­ers will have to un­dergo train­ing on the in­tri­ca­cies of com­puter tech­nol­ogy, a skill they sorely lack or are not adept with.

The net re­sult of these prob­lems is the dra­matic de­crease in en­roll­ment in both pri­vate and pub­lic schools. It will set back the gov­ern­ment’s cam­paign to pro­vide ba­sic and

qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to Filipinos.

“In na­tion­wide poll sur­veys, the re­gion tops the most num­ber of com­po­nent prov­inces oc­cu­py­ing the high­est rung in the poverty in­dex. The prob­lem is am­pli­fied in its re­mote ar­eas.

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