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.