Filling the learning gaps in school system during the pandemic

Published March 6, 2021, 12:11 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced early this week that it would  extend the school year to July 10 to enable  teachers to   conduct “intervention and remediation activities” on March 1-12 “to address learning gaps” and give them additional time  for the different  learning  modalities. They would attend  on March 15-19 a professional development program organized  by the  school  or other DepEd unit.

 Last Wednesday, however, the department  withdrew the plan following objections that  it would shorten the summer vacation to only two weeks. We hope, however, that  the  DepEd will continue with its  plan  to  address the “learning  gaps“ that have been  attributed to the cancellation of face-to-face classes and substantial loss of live student  contact with teachers.

Face-to-face classes were replaced by a  system of distance learning last year  to  avoid personal  contacts among teachers and students that  could provide an opportunity  for the COVID-19 virus to spread. The problem, however, was that so many students did not have the  needed  equipment such as TV sets, smartphones,  and laptops.  And  many areas of the country  do not have internet service.

 This is a problem  shared  by  the Philippines  with many  other countries, the United Nations International Children ‘s Fund (UNICEF) said in the middle of the pandemic last August. It disclosed the results of a study showing that some 463 million children around the world lacked the equipment for  electronic access to benefit from  distance learning programs.  In the Pacific and East Asia countries alone,  the UNICEF said,  some 80 million had this problem.

This week, the polling organization Social Weather Stations (SWS) announced the results of a survey  it conducted among Filipino students. The  survey  showed that only  58 percent had the devices needed for  distance  learning. Forty-two percent did not have them and so were unable to  take part in  the on-line classes during  the school year.

This  lack of proper equipment among many students is surely  one of the learning gaps the  DepEd has found after  many months of the pandemic. There is also the lack of internet service in   many parts of the country,  partly  because  there  simply are no communication towers  in some regions.

There is also the fact that many students respond best to face-to-face communication with teachers. It has thus been proposed that our school rooms be expanded and reconfigured, so that students maintain a proper distance from one another at all times.

Our schools have been forced to follow so many restrictions  these  past  months  because  of the  pandemic. With the start of  mass vaccinations, it may soon be possible to ease them so as to help so many students who suffered from the restrictions, mostly from lack  of  expensive equipment.