The #SuspendOnlineClasses hashtag is filled with outcry from students of various schools. Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) for one has already shortened its second semester in line with the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), passed its students and even issued a tuition refund. That’s something.
Student councils from the big four (UST, DLSU, UP Diliman, and Loyola Schools) have urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to suspend online classes, citing factors such as internet accessibility, availability of devices and the effectiveness of online classes as obstacles during a crisis.
And as we’ve said before, distance learning isn’t for everyone. What it exposes instead is the problem of privilege. This naturally sparked the clamor for the movement to leave no student behind.
Then, there’s also the issue of schools and universities such as University of Santo Tomas (UST) retaining full tuition rates despite the fact that students themselves utilize their own internet connection or personal devices (if they are lucky enough to have one). On Twitter, a representative of the UST Engineering Student Council expressed his concern regarding the university’s tuition amid a global pandemic.
And as we’ve said before, distance learning isn’t for everyone. What it exposes instead is the problem of privilege.
It can be argued that the kind of education students will pay for to attend online classes is a little hard to get their head around. However, other countries have shaped their own strategies to not compromise education during these times. India and China, for example, plan to televise online classes.
In Jamaica, they plan to include services such as printed learning kits for students without internet connection, accessible educational lessons broadcast on 25 channels, zero-rated data access to educational content online and strengthened accessibility with internet providers.
Other face-to-face learning approaches meanwhile suggest how the rest of the world may follow suit. Denmark was the first to reopen schools in mid-April as they shifted towards the “new normal” education: door handles, wash basins and school tables are wiped down three to five times every day. Students in classrooms have been whittled down to half so they can still maintain a two-meter distance from one another.
Teachers in one Berlin school are challenged even more, delivering the same lessons four separate times as classes are divided into four groups to maintain the required 1.5 meters of space between individuals.
This further stresses the fact that teachers also share the struggles with the students on what the future of education looks. Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) is concerning. As of May 22, 2020, over 250,000 students have transferred from private to public schools for the upcoming school year—148,852 of which are elementary students, 69,851 are junior high school students, 26,138 are senior high school students and the remaining 5,698 are learners with disabilities.
Teachers are also greatly affected with as much as 263,000 struggling with financial stability according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones. Furthermore, CHEd chair Popoy de Vera stated that 36,000 part-time faculty staffers and an additional 17,000 part-time instructors from state universities have also suffered the effects of the pandemic.
That’s on top of the 77,000 private college and university faculty members who face the “no work, no pay” rule or at least a pay cut, according to the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations.
Taken from the May 22 Senate hearing, Sen. Ralph Recto stated that 300,000 private school teachers may need to be given social aid. “About 330,000 teachers in private schools will be financially impacted, with either pay cuts or totally losing their pay in the case of those paid per lecture hour.” However, other schools assured that teacher salaries will still be paid for the whole year. On the other hand, 50,000 teachers in the K to 12 program are in danger of losing their jobs, according to Secretary Briones.
A domino effect of some sorts, various sectors other than the students and teachers are also reeling. “Education is one sector which has a large client base, about 34 million—students, teachers, non-academic employees and the auxiliary services like school buses, uniform makers, food, boarding houses and transportation,” Recto added.
But can’t there be any compromises? In our interview with Sarah Elago of Kabataan Partylist regarding the #LeaveNoStudentBehind movement, solutions for “fair and equitable pandemic response and recovery plan in education” is necessary.
What happened to inclusivity?
According to Elago, proper assistance for students during online classes are as follows: Efficient planning and preparation must be according to the overall health and socio-economic situation; conduct surveys for present needs and concerns of learners and educators; ensure support for the health and well-being of the learning community; and provide free internet connectivity and availability of gadgets with learning materials that can also be accessed offline.
According to UNESCO, a staggering 87 percent of the student population around the world has been affected by school closures, with a shift to online learning being a major opportunity to cope until the pandemic subsides.
On the week of Mar. 23, 2020, Barnes & Noble College Insights conducted an online quantitative survey of 432 college students from the U.S. that examined their perspective as education shifts from traditional face-to-face to online.
But while online learning may be inevitable, it also raises concerns: Not everyone has the same learning environment that allows students to work or study efficiently. Staring at a screen and trying to maintain an open mind in lessons is much more draining compared to being physically present inside a classroom. In the survey conducted, more than 64 percent of students expressed concerns about staying motivated as they note that they get easily distracted.
Roughly 55 percent of students still feel the need for social interaction as it helps them learn better with fellow students. No human interaction with the other students and faculty members have caused anxiety and worrying for the students. The sudden change in lifestyle and limited resources online has left 45 percent of students concerned about underperforming. Meanwhile, 12 percent of students are worried about their internet connection not being stable enough to sustain their learning.
No doubt that online learning will be part of the future but how this new learning model will really look depends on the decisions and tweaks that benefit everyone. Or will we shift to something hybrid?
The sudden change in lifestyle and limited resources online has left 45 percent of students concerned about underperforming.
Pushing through education for the sake of trying to get over the pandemic isn’t the answer. You can’t trade quality for compromised education. Now, it seems education is a privilege for people who can afford it. What happened to inclusivity?
As we adjust to the “new normal,” let’s not forget that teachers and students should be equipped to stay afloat. Because too often their needs sometimes aren’t prioritized and that’s a sad reality.
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Art by Jan Cardasto