The Education sector is one of the hard hit and challenged in this ongoing pandemic. Teachers are the ones who relatively witnessed and experienced the challenges for their jobs and their dedication to ensure the continuity of learning through adapting to the new normal. This article provides insights from the field in a Filipino school.
The email interviews were done to the school personnel (school head and teachers) in the duration of December 2020 – January 8th 2021 according to personnel’s availability. Personal Interviews with 10 parents and 10 pupils from different grade levels were conducted in December 2020.
Modular Distance Learning
Tucal Elementary School of Solano, Nueva Vizcaya is one of the Public Schools in the Philippines that shared their experiences during the ongoing pandemic. According to Mr. Cesar Castillo, School Head, teachers used different methods in teaching in the distance learning. They included additional learning materials like textbooks in the learners’ self-learning kit for reference. They monitored learning through created group chats and through calls and texts for those who do have limited or no access to internet.
The school practiced Modular Distance Learning, where modules and activity sheets were distributed to the learners and will be retrieved on a given date. In this modality, parents take a learning package where the teacher can place the modules and in return parents would also place the activities previously done by the learners.
Here are the challenges the teachers faced according to Mr. Castillo:
- Administering enrollment- we went house to house to have our learners answer the enrolment form;
- Administering PTA (Parents Teachers Association) meetings- we have to divide them and have schedules following all the necessary protocols where when it is on a normal situation, we can have them as one;
- Downloading and Printing modules; Distribution and retrieval of modules;
- Funds for reproduction;
- Learning process- relying more on paper/modules thus lessons cannot be explained and elaborated by the teacher thoroughly;
- Communication- it is limited.
That during the pandemic time, they are challenged on how to reach their learners and give them quality education without face-to-face mode of teaching. They encountered difficulty in reaching some of their learners who had no means of communication and some problems in the reproduction of the modules.
However, they were able to surpassed all those challenges by having a good partnership with the LGU (Local Government Unit), BLGU (Barangay Local Government Unit), DO (Division Office) and with the stakeholders and other private individuals who extended their help to the school needs. The school received printers and bond papers from the BLGU of Tucal, Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) Fund and School MOOE helped in the purchase of needed supplies in the reproduction of modules like additional printers, reams of bond papers and bottles of inks. Some private individuals volunteered to donate reams of bond paper and the Division Office of Nueva Vizcaya provided a new printer and boxes of bond papers to the school.
For the teachers to adapt in the “new normal” and distance learning workshops and seminars were offered, like the ICT-based teaching in the new normal set-up. The DepEd (Department of Education) initiated webinars and provided applications which can be easily accessed and downloaded. These Open Educational Resources help teacher create games and interactive digital worksheets for the learners who have or do not have access to the internet. There are also mental and psychosocial support webinars conducted by the local and national government.
According also to Mr. Castillo, there was no salary raise during this period. Teachers received the same salary. The chalk allowance they are receiving annually was just change to teaching and connectivity allowance but with the same amount. Hence, it is a privilege of those who are working in the government to still receive salaries even in times of pandemic. That they might not be working in medical frontlines but they are still continuously working. And the fact that it is the law and imbedded in the Magna Carta for Public school teachers . They are also allowed by the heads in the department to work from home given that they submit accomplishment reports. There are also loan moratoriums to ease their financial needs during the pandemic since almost all commodities are rising on their prices.
Weaknesses of Distance Learning
He also stated that if he will to assess the effectiveness of modular distance learning, he would say it is poor. The modules have answer keys for the purpose that the learners or parents can readily check their work or their child’s work after they answer their modules. However, teachers noticed that most of the pupils do not go over the modules anymore and they just copy the answers in the answer key. Thus, we can say learning did not manifest. Teachers relied on the pupils’ output for their performance tasks and summative tests for every quarter. However again, they are not sure if they are the one answering them. In a face-to-face learning, the teacher is readily available to:
- discuss the lesson thoroughly provide differentiated activities suited to them
- made intervention and gave remedial for least mastered competencies
The learning environment in school is far too different from that on the learning atmosphere in their home. Distant learning requires the guidance of the parents/guardians to monitor their children. It is a great task on their part to explain and discuss the lesson especially if they are untrained or illiterate.
Ms. Fatima Clarisse Garcia, K-1 teacher shared that “Teaching in the new normal demands a big adjustment, that a normal teacher would be teaching in a classroom with his/her pupils but now we haven’t even seen them. All we do is download, print and sort modules, distribute and retrieve modules, then check and record them. It may seem like it is an easy task, instead, it was a tedious work taking note of how many pages of modules we are reproducing per subject times the number of pupils we have. It’s really difficult especially in monitoring the learners, we call, text, and chat them every day and also visit them at home to check and see if they are able to answer their modules, and that we are also on call if they have any queries.
As I try to help my pupils learn efficiently, I also look for videos, stories for them however it is only limited to pupils who have gadgets and the means to access internet. Of course, face to face is more effective, far better than modules especially in the early grades, however, I understand the situation and that we have to follow protocols for everybody’s safety. Being resilient and reaching out to the parents and learners and encouraging them, in a way makes a difference”.
Ms. Garcia also stated that Modular distance learning is more difficult, in terms of teaching and learning process – before they can discuss the lessons thoroughly, give differentiated activities and can readily give interventions and remedial to struggling pupils. Unlike now they can only depend on their parents/guardians to teach them, materials are also limited and so with the activities and to top it all, they observed that most parents cannot teach their children well because they have other work, they are not trained, and others are also illiterate.
Ms. Denielle Sue Galapon, a 5th Grade teacher said, “We used our time in printing and reproducing modules, assorting, distributing, and retrieving them in a systematic manner. Teaching in a remote set-up was a big adjustment for both teachers and learners. Modular learning is more difficult because learners learn on different environment and often depends on themselves and their parents.
…In the new normal setting, I can’t cater same things at the same time because learners have different paces in answering their modules. Monitoring their progress is also a challenge, where teachers are trained to teach and parents were not trained on the approaches, strategies, and methods in teaching. Thus, modular learning is not effective. As monitoring the development of the learners is hard as the answers, they provide in the summative tests are unsatisfying. Also, performance tasks were effectively and conveniently given to the learners, though some can not comply due to lack of resources.”
The 6th grade teacher Ms. Lenie Florentino also added “I believe that pupils can learn more in a classroom compared to learning distantly at home where there are distractions. They can’t teach the pupils in their own style and strategies and they have limited ways to be with them. And the means of reaching the pupils through visitation, video call, SMS and call are not enough even if we are doing our best. Parents are the one guiding their kids. We readily embrace the challenges and that the bottom line is every teacher is doing their best for the learners to continue learning amidst the pandemic.”
Parents and Pupils’ Experience
Some parents commented that having their kids learning at home requires them an ample amount of time. Often, they can not commit to focus on teaching their kids at home. According to most of them, they lack the knowledge and resources to teach their kids. They only have a small amount of time to spare as they have work ahead of the day.
It’s a big adjustment for both parent/s and child. Some who could afford to get a tutor find it a little bit convenient but most of the parents can not afford a tutor as their jobs were tremendously affected by the pandemic. Access to technology and internet is a problem too, as some cannot afford to pay for an internet cellular data and would just rely on a text message or a phone call, or a visit to or from the school. There are also some but few parents who are illiterate and are not capable of helping their children to cope with their lessons on their modules.
According to pupils, distance learning made them miss their school and their peers. They are in a period where they are confined at home and were not allowed to go out especially during the lockdown. They are often slacking to do their home learning and modular activities; they are prone to distractions like watching TV or playing on their gadgets. One learner shared that she answers her activity sheet all at once so she has more time to play for the week. One learner also admitted to copying the answer key of their activity sheet as it was easier and there is no need to bother his parents. Majority of the pupils find distance learning to be difficult and ineffective as they are used to a classroom set up.
In this example of an Elementary public school, it is clear that distance learning requires an extra effort to reach pupils and that supervision and guidance of both teachers and parents are essential to ensure and mitigate the manifestation of learning in every child. That learning outcomes are affected especially for those learners who cannot easily adapt and cope to the new learning set up. And distance learning may diminish student-teacher relationship that despite the challenges, efforts to achieve a quality education is done by teachers adapting to the new normal.