Learning Through the Pandemic

By: Carmela G. Reyes
No one has seen it coming. While everybody was busy enjoying the beauty of this life, a life threatening and life changing virus lurked in and affected the lives of people worldwide. As it increased its scope of effect, the governments from different parts of the world declared a state of pandemic. The corona virus has affected not only the health of the people but also the economy of the world, the social life of individuals and the education sector among other things. In the education sector, a lot of changes had to take place in order to make possible the continuity of learning. Here in the Philippines, the Department of Education has innovated and exerted efforts to become responsive to the challenges of the situation- from the design of learning modules to the assignment of scores and grades to get through the school year.

While everybody was in panic and the schools temporarily closed because of the prohibition on face-to-face classroom interaction, the secretary of the Department of Education met with other school leaders to come up with ways to address the problem. Not long after, they decided to continue the learning process of the learners and enjoined the teachers to prepare and design learning modules to be given to the students. The design process was very tedious but the teachers, guided by the learning outcomes of the subjects they were teaching, did their best to produce stand- alone modules to serve as learning materials and avenues for learners. Considering the limited reference materials, the limited time and the lack of other resources, the modules had to be produced. And produced they were! The learners were able to continue their education despite not having to go to school and actually meeting their teachers.

The next challenge was the distribution of modules. Not all the parents could go to school or to the distribution areas to get the modules of their children. What made it more difficult was the restrictions on mobility imposed by the government. Some areas of the Philippines have been under enhanced community quarantine for so long that parents and teachers could not easily go out and meet. The help of the police officers and/or soldiers was solicited to make the distribution easier. Another problem encountered in the distribution of modules was the distance of the houses of the students from the distribution areas. Some learners live in far-flung areas and could hardly be located and reached. Because of this, some teachers had to go extra miles, walk for many kilometers and endure the scorching heat or the heavy downpour just to reach the houses of their students and give them their modules. For those who chose to go online, the internet connection was not always stable which caused the delay in the accomplishment of required tasks. Even the teachers had a problem on this so they had to look for a good location where their connection during their online class could not be disrupted.

Collecting back the modules posed another challenge to both the teachers and the students/parents. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, some learners could not accomplish the required tasks on time because of poor or unstable net connection. But those who used printed modules could not also finish and submit their modules on time. Aside from the fact that some of them could not ask guidance from their parents in lieu of their teachers, the tasks became too much for them and the environment of their homes was not conducive for learning. A number of modules and learning activity sheets submitted were incomplete; worse, some were torn, soiled and crumpled that they could not be re-used anymore. On the part of the parents, they could not teach their children the way their teachers did so they were just the one who answered the modules of their children. Sadly, their children did not gain the intended learning provided by the module. On a positive note, some parents were very patient and became the teachers of their child. For those who could afford and had not much time, they hired tutors to assist their kids in accomplishing their modules.

Finally, marking the submitted outputs also took a toll on the teachers. People might think that assigning scores is as easy as throwing darts. On the contrary, it is one of the most difficult tasks of being a teacher. For one, teachers need to make sure that they are objective in rating the outputs of their students. With the tons of outputs to check, the same standard has to be maintained. This is challenging especially when the checking is not done in one setting. During the pandemic when teachers worked from home, they did not teach only, they also did other household works, so they could not focus on one task. Nevertheless, the use of rubrics helped a lot. Checking was still possibly done.

Things have not been easy but resilient and flexible as we Filipinos are, we were able to cope and continue to survive. Kudos to the Secretary of Education who did not budge during those times when she was hurled with a lot of criticisms and unnecessary attacks. Kudos to the teachers who stayed committed to their profession and continued to impart learning in the best way they could. Kudos to the parents who were supportive of the efforts of the educators. Indeed, we can achieve a lot if we work as a team.