‘Modular learning is not working’

Published November 16, 2020, 10:45 AM

by Noel Pabalate

In photos, the harsh reality students, parents, and teachers are going through this school year

On the busy street corner of Juan Luna and Sta. Elena in Divisoria, Cyline Bantay answers her printed modules for school. The third-grade public school student sits in her mother’s stall, pencil in hand.

Despite the crowds in Divisoria, Lucy Bantay is confident that she and her daughter will not catch the virus. She stresses that they observe health protocols including wearing face masks and shields, while also maintaining as much social distancing as possible with customers. But that isn’t the only thing she has to manage.

Lucy Bantay (left) with her daughter Cyline (right) / Photo by Noel Palabate

The young mother tries to be as hands-on as possible in helping her daughter with her lessons, while still attending to the customers who come and go. With the lessons printed in English, however, Lucy admits she has some difficulty comprehending everything. But what choice does she have?

Binabasa ko lang ng paulit-ulit yung lessons kasi yun din ang sabi sa amin ng mga teachers nila: basahin lang paulit-ulit, at maiintindihan din naman (I just read the printed lessons again and again because that is what the teachers told us: read it again and again, and then you’ll understand it eventually),” she shares.

More than just ABCs and 123s

In Quezon City, a narrow sari-sari store transforms into a classroom. Amy Palcomit, a widow and mother of six, two of whom are twins, has to manage teaching her children while also managing her store.

Four of her children are currently enrolled in an elementary public school, but helping them with their modular lessons is not as easy as ABCs and 123s. Aside from the fact that the young ones can be unruly at times, she confesses that she can only teach a portion of the module, the portion she understands.

Amy Palcomit (right) with her four elementary school children / Photo by Noel Palabate

Thankfully, her eldest children, twins Hermie and Hannah, are there for her. Both were second-year college students who were unable to enrol this year due to financial constraints. During these difficult times, they assist their mother in checking their siblings’ modules. And when they can’t explain something properly, they turn to Google.

The family of seven shares one cellphone for all of their online and modular learning. Each day, they make sure those who need the gadget the most will get to use it. But there is no reliable Internet signal for them, and no extra money for pre-paid load. So they rely on modular learning with lessons they all admit are difficult to comprehend.

The printed modules and lessons required to be picked up every two weeks from their schools, each grade level with a scheduled time and day. With her children split into three different grade levels, Amy goes to the school on three separate occasions every two weeks just to pick up the sets of modules.

For this family, it takes two

Going back and forth is not the only complaint of the parents and guardians of students enrolled in public schools. Julius Jularbal, a father of four, says that the long lines are inconvenient as well.

He monitors his sons and daughters in the morning before going on to do his household responsibilities. His wife, Michelle, a government employee, takes over tutoring their children after dinner. Consequently, they find themselves oftentimes staying up with their children late into the evening to finish all their lessons.

In the beginning, Michelle said she found it hard to give equal attention to her children as they began the new normal of modular schooling. Tired from a day’s work, she had to find the energy to be a teacher.

Julius and Michelle Jularbal with their four children / Photo by Noel Palabate

“I think ang advantage nito [modular learning] ay nagiging aware kami kung ano ang mga pinag-aaralan ng mga anak namin (I think the advantage of this [modular learning] is that we are now aware of what are children are studying),” Michelle shares.

But now that she saw the modules of her children day in and day out, she realized that something needed to be improved. Some of the printed visuals couldn’t be identified and the website links were too long to type. She said she even found a link that had content that was not suitable for her children probably placed in the lesson by mistake.

What parents can do

One public school teacher we talked to, Teacher Z, described how she supervises her children every day and also saw flaws in the modules distributed. Sometimes she even reprinted the modules at her own expense because the copies were incomplete, missing texts, and at one point was just just plain white bond paper inside an envelope she was given.

Given all these shortcomings, we might wonder how we could assess if the future leaders of our nation are actually learning, especially those whose only modality is modular.

Quezon City School Division recently held a webinar on building assessment and competence. Speakers Micah Pacheco and Bernadeth Daran, both teachers by profession, mentioned that DepEd aims to develop independent learners who can study and work on assessments on their own. One way to do that, they added, is through a modular system. This type of modality falls under formative assessment, which, according to their presentation, is about getting better through specific, frequent, and repetitive assessment free from the restrictions of grading.

Yes, you read right. The assessments in modular learning are not graded, which most parents, if not all, may be unaware of. The speakers went on to explain that it is not graded so that learners would not cheat nor be afraid nor pressured while answering the exercises.

Teachers that we talked to said that learning modules could develop not just students’ intellects but also their values, specifically honesty, discipline, and perseverance as they are encouraged to learn on their own. But, of course, that does not mean parents should care less about their children’s studies. DepEd reiterates that parents play an important and crucial role in guiding their children in adapting to the process of distance learning.

But who helps parents adapt?

“If parents see that their kids have mastered a certain topic in the modules, there is no need to finish all the corresponding exercises. Instead, they should move to the next lesson,” stresses Daran in the webinar. “Otherwise, they should finish it and apply the frequent and repetitive method of formative assessment.”

To know if their children are improving, parents should have a monitoring tool they can fill up. Unfortunately, none of our respondent parents had received any monitoring sheets.

Teacher Z opened up to us and suggested parents not point fingers and blame the new education system. Rather, they all should recognize that they have a right to know what’s really happening in their children’s distance and modular learning, demand it from their schools and help each other out to make their children’s education the best it can be.

“Parents and teachers, I believe, will always find a way to make up for the shortcoming of the Department of Education (DepEd), so our children can learn in this challenging situation,” says Teacher Z. “But I hope that will not always be the case.”