Education in the time of COVID19: A challenging privilege

The shift to blended learning can also be overburdening to some students. It is unfortunate that several incidents of suicide committed by students have been reported due to the financial pressures brought about by increased electronic and logistical requirements for the blending learning scheme, and the pressure to participate in online classes. 

Classes in over 47,000 public schools were re-opened on 5 October 2020, with over 22 million students participating in the blended learning scheme due to the COVID19 pandemic disruption. With very little time to prepare and rising costs to pursue this learning method, several mishaps, challenges and problems have arisen. These include erroneous learning materials, problematic internet connectivity, and glaring mistakes in recently broadcast DepED TV episodes. Nevertheless, Education Chief Leonor Briones claimed victory over the COVID19 pandemic with the resumption of classes.

Reactions have been mixed over the potential effectiveness of the blended learning scheme. To an extent, privileged students with reliable internet and infrastructure are best equipped to cope with the challenges of online learning. However, many students find the adjustment period extremely difficult due to intermittent internet connection in the countryside, poor learning infrastructure quality available for poverty-stricken students (use of low-tech cell phones rather than computers), and lack of guidance from parents/guardians who are also simultaneous working from home. Due to its unproven track record of the blended learning scheme, some parents have decided not to enroll their children this school year.

Many teachers have also been forced to scale up their competencies with the shift to blended learning. Senior citizen teachers who have been used to old, traditional lecturing methods were forced to suddenly learn the use of various online tools and systems within a short preparatory timeframe. Due to lack of timely funding, some teachers were forced to shell out their own money to fund materials for technology-based learning. Moreover, many teachers have been forced to spend the wee hours of the morning to complete lengthy self-learning modules that their students would have to answer as part of the blended learning scheme.

The shift to blended learning can also be overburdening to some students. It is unfortunate that several incidents of suicide committed by students have been reported due to the financial pressures brought about by increased electronic and logistical requirements for the blending learning scheme, and the pressure to participate in online classes. 

Education today has become more of a privilege than a right, considering the socio-economic impact of COVID19. Many private school students have transferred to public schools as many parents lost their jobs and livelihoods with companies closing or retrenching employees.

As we tread through these difficult times, let us remind all education stakeholders to be diligent and patient in this painstaking process. Education, after all, is earned and not given on a silver platter. This works not only for students today, but also for our enablers- government officials, education groups and associations, and most importantly--- our teachers.

To an extent, there is some semblance of victory to be celebrated. However, there are more obstacles to be hurdled and more criticisms to be addressed. Education today indeed is a challenging privilege.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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