One of the incalculable losses of the Covid-19 pandemic is in how children and teenagers have, in many ways, been forced to “grow up.” In particular, due to the shift to online and modular learning, students are now taking more of an initiative in their own education and learning process.
“Students and teachers are entering an unprecedented time of distance learning,” says the team behind Teach for the Philippines (TFP), a non-profit social enterprise working to provide quality education to all Filipino students. “The traditional face-to-face classroom environment [is replaced] with a home-based learning experience.”
Experience. It is the perfect word to sum up the direction education has moved toward during the past few months.
The classroom’s built environment is specifically designed to facilitate learning. There are the presence and instruction of a licensed professional to teach. But now, students and their guardians must work together with teachers and the educational system to re-create the learning experience in their home environments, each home with its own unique challenges.
TFP’s core programs create a pipeline of skilled public school teachers for the country. They search, train, and place teachers, as well as connect them to local government units working on education and youth policy. Like others in the educational sector, TFP’s typical mode of face-to-face delivery for their teaching fellows is not acceptable given the current health situation. But as a purpose-driven initiative, they were able to adapt.
“The Summer Institute is our intensive, seven-week pre-deployment training for teachers and, until this year, it had always been done at a live-in training venue,” says Clarissa Delgado, founder and CEO of TFP. “Pivoting to virtual training has been undoubtedly necessary, but also extremely challenging.”
In an interview with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Clarissa sheds light on how TFP has worked to prepare public school teachers going into the school year. In understanding how one of the country’s leading education initiatives has gone about teaching teachers, guardians and students may be able to re-create the learning experience in their home environment.
“The Summer Institute is preparing our teachers with knowledge, skills, and mindsets that would be necessary for the new school year,” Clarissa adds, before going into more detail on each of the key points.
When we think of “knowledge” in education, we often jump straight into discussing the content of the class. As in, what is the knowledge that we hope students get out of the lesson, whether it is memorizing dates and places, or understanding how to write a logical argument.
Even before that, however, we ought to understand how it is we gain knowledge and retain it. Knowledge is not static. It is a process. The best teachers do not simply just read out what is in the textbook. A child at home can easily do that. The experience that students and their guardians need to replicate is the process of learning, grounded in fundamental theories of education.
“Fellows are equipped with the foundations and theories of education, its relevance today, and what strategies facilitate effective teaching and learning,” says Clarissa. “Along with adaptive leadership principles and a deepened understanding of the community that we serve, we are prepared to make a lasting impact in the Philippine public school education system.”
Students and guardians should engage in dialogue with teaching professionals not simply about the content of a lesson, but on how to approach learning. There are also articles and resources online that discuss how we learn.
Modern, technology-enabled communication is at the forefront of distance learning.
“With the changing landscape of Philippine public school education, we redesigned our Summer Institute to equip our Teacher Fellows with the necessary skills to respond to the challenges we face,” says Clarissa. “Lessons on how to adapt to teaching through alternative delivery modes were included to effectively reach and teach our students. This includes sessions on how to effectively use radio or audio and video instruction, basic phone photography and videography, and online tools to design instructional materials.”
The Department of Education (DepEd) constantly stresses the importance of 21st century skills in the K to 12 curriculum, including information, media, and technology skills. Unfortunate a circumstance as this is, distance learning provides an opportunity for teachers and their students to learn and practice such skills.
Beyond the textbooks and worksheets that a student will be given, there are limitless resources available online. It is important for students to learn not only how to look for information online, but also how to be discerning as they sift through the Internet.
Perhaps the most important thing for teachers, students, guardians, and all of us Filipinos right now is to constantly check in on our mindset. Many of the educational issues we are now discussing have existed before the health crisis, which has exacerbated our situation.
“The Covid-19 crisis emphasized existing challenges that have strengthened our commitment to being part of the solution. We remain focused on the mission to provide Filipino children with access to quality education,” says Clarissa. “The knowledge and the stories that we discover by listening to each other and our communities help us grow stronger. We will persevere and adapt to any challenge as we navigate through them together with courage and kindness.”
“I want to take a moment to realistically acknowledge that our situation and these times will only get harder still. We have neither certainty nor concrete answers,” the TFP founder adds. “We recognize that we cannot make everyone happy with all of our decisions, but rest assured that we continue to use our core values as our guiding principles for our decisions. Our values speak of belonging, curiosity, excellence, integrity, respect, and service. This is our accountability to each other and the communities we serve.”