JoeyLina 300x300 - Facing daunting challenges in PH basic education
Former Senator Atty. Joey Lina

If anything can go wrong, it will.

The essence of Murphy’s Law might seem all too real with just a few days to go before basic education classes in our public school system are set to open amid the swirling perfect storm of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even during normal times before the pandemic, it seemed normal that every school opening would be beset by the usual problems – shortage of classrooms, school supplies, textbooks, and many more perennial challenges.

But the challenges this time are more complex. Without face-to-face or in-person classes, the shift to digital and distance learning has become the only way to proceed with our education system. And like any situation that has no precedence, the new type of learning is facing many unpredictable factors, as well as birth pains that cause so much anxiety.

The anxiety plaguing many students, parents, and educators still revolves around uncertainties on how to cope with online education or a combination of various distance learning modalities using printed modules, including TV and radio-based instruction.

So many questions still linger. Would internet connectivity be reliable and sufficient? How can financially-strained families afford needed WiFi and gadgets for those who want online learning?

For those who have chosen blended learning with the use of self-learning modules, would the instruction materials be adequate and delivered on time?

How would illiterate parents guide their children through home schooling? What if these parents need to do other chores or to leave the house and earn a living, can the kids study and learn on their own.

With so many concerns seeking answers, many feel the reality of the so-called Murphy’s Law – If anything can go wrong, it will.

Yet frenzied preparations could be the antidote to Murphy’s Law. And listening to my Teleradyo online guest last Sunday, Department of Education Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo who is in charge of DepEd’s field operations, people could feel reassured that everything’s going well as they get the impression that extensive preparations have been ongoing to meet the unprecedented challenges for this school year.

“As of September 19, 88.6 percent na po ng mga self-learning module ay naihatid na sa mga mag-aaral,” Escobedo said as he gave an update on the distribution of the learning materials for those who have chosen blended learning.

He said local government units have helped a lot in the distribution.  “Ang pamamaraan nila ay inihahatid nila ito at binibigay sa mga magulang… nag-identify sila ng mga pick-up o delivery points sa barangay o sa sitio (What they do is they deliver (the modules) and give it to the parents… they identify pick-up or delivery points in the barangay or sitio),” he explained.

It’s good that LGUs are playing a crucial role in this new learning setup. As I wrote in a previous column, school principals and barangay officials must forge a strong partnership in the pursuit of distance learning.

As per advice of former Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro who also guested recently in my Teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan (Sundays, 8 a.m.), principals ought to seek the help of barangay chairmen in the use of barangay transport facilities to deliver learning materials. Also, barangays can establish Internet hubs where students can converge for their online learning needs.

A strong partnership between schools and LGUs can indeed facilitate educational governance, with the local school board (LSB) playing a major role. As provided by the Local Government Code, provinces, cities, and municipalities have their own respective LSBs which “serve as advisory committee to the sanggunian concerned on educational matters such as, but not limited to, the necessity for and the uses of local appropriations for educational purposes.”

LSBs also determine budgetary needs for the operation and maintenance of public schools funded from special levy of 1% of real property tax collected by LGUs annually. The LSBs are not barred from formulating activities like training teachers on computer literacy.

And speaking of training, Usec. Escobedo reported that over 542,000 public school teachers have already undergone training in the past few months on blended distance learning. Also, around 8 million parents and guardians have also been trained on the new learning modalities.

Aside from students having sufficient access to distance learning modules and the needed infrastructure for online education, another crucial aspect that Murphy’s Law can affect is on the evaluation of student performance. It is obvious that new ways of assessing students have to be formulated to determine if they indeed grasp lessons and if they are able to accomplish the student workload on their own.

These uncertain times have  led to many daunting challenges with unpredictable factors. It is in times like these that innovation and a strong partnership among all stakeholders must really shine if we are to stay clear of situations where anything can go terribly wrong.


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