Everyone has been worried about this school opening.
With the coronavirus threat, schools remain closed when classes start on Oct. 5. Even without face-to-face interaction, millions of students started their classes through alternative learning delivery modalities.
Recognizing the challenges of education stakeholders during the first week of classes, the Rotary International District 3830 – through Past District Governor Manila Bulletin Executive Vice President Sonny Coloma and Past Presidents Raissa Hechanova Posadas, Charlotte Cruz, and Marge Lamberte – organized a town hall meeting last Thursday on high school teaching and learning challenges.
Aside from recognizing the challenges, Past President Reggie Nolido – who served as the moderator – said that the town hall meeting aimed to find out what else can be done to make education under the new normal better.
Rotary District 3830 Gov. Cha-cha Camacho said that the forum is the “second town hall meeting on basic education.” In September, the first education town hall meeting focused on distance learning.
In a Zoom meeting, Cabuloan National High School Principal Juan Catalan shared the school’s experience in he first week of classes. Located in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, the Cabuloan NHS is medium-sized secondary school with over 300 enrollees, 18 teachers, one head teacher, and is headed by a principal.
Like other public schools, Catalan said that school prepared for the start of classes by completing the modules, activity sheets, weekly home learning plans, printing, and sorting of materials. “The first week focused on distribution of Self Learning Materials (SLMs) and other materials to parents and guardians and online discussion of the psychosocial wellness module and monitoring of learners’ activity at home,” he said.
Catalan shared the challenges encountered by the school, teachers, parents, and the students. Among these include simultaneous questioning of parents and learners about their module and activity sheets, difficulty in contacting learners to keep on track, printing of modules and activity sheets, and poor Internet connection.
“Some parents experienced difficulty in managing their time because of their work and jobs yet they need to help their children in accomplishing the modules and activity sheets,” Catalan said. “Learners also have to adjust to the new normal education set-up and some of them accomplished their modules alone because their parents are busy on their job and work at home,” he added.
With everyone’s cooperation, Catalan noted that most of the challenges were solved through various interventions.
Sofia Gabrielle Romas, a Grade 12 student at the Maximo Estrella Senior High School in Makati City, also shared how she is adjusting to distance and online learning.
“So far, so good,” Romas said, describing the first week of home-based schooling. However, there were some issues that made the “road a bit rocky” for her such as now having her own personal gadget, unstable Internet connection, and doing household chores. “I once had to listen to Physics being discussed to me in broken language,” she added.
Romas admitted that there are so many adjustments and “I couldn’t avoid thinking what could’ve been if we aren’t where we are right now.” Overall, she feels that while she is not learning less during online class, “I do think I can learn more with face-to-face classes.”
As a person who thrives on social interaction, Romas admitted that not seeing her friends is taking a toll on her mental health. “I feel lonely but what can I do?”
Eleanor Alfaro, mom to a son who is in Grade 7 at the Puerto Princesa City National High School in Palawan, said parents also need to cope with the changes. As a widow and a working mother, she is constantly worried about her own safety as well as her child’s, the quality of learning that her son will get in the new learning system, and exposure to gadgets.
“I am a working mother, therefore, I cannot closely supervise my son in his lesson. I could attend to his questions,” Alfaro said.
Amid all the challenges, Alfaro noted that collaboration between teachers and parents is the “key to successful implementation of distance learning” during the time of pandemic. “We should always look at the brighter side and let’s be grateful that the education of our children continues.”
Camacho underscored the need for all sectors to work together to address the challenges in the new learning set-up. “It will help us all if we unite and pull all our energies and resources together that will allow us to achieve our individual as well as our group goals.”