Distance learning hurdles
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
“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.