It’s just halfway through the school year but teachers and students are tired already.
In public schools, School Year (SY) 2020-2021 started on Oct. 5, after it was postponed twice due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Without face-to-face classes, students and teachers learn and teach using multiple learning delivery modalities.
The use of alternative modalities of learning delivery is not an entirely a new concept in the Philippines. It has been used by the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) program, a parallel learning system that provides opportunities for out-of-school youth and adult (OSYA) learners.
However, it is the first time that such learning set-up was implemented in a very large scale – making the transition a major challenge for everyone.
With recurring issues that remain unsolved, it is getting harder and harder for many of them to keep up with the demands of distance learning despite the academic ease measures laid out by the Department of Education (DepEd) in October.
School year has become a ‘compliance’
For John Kyle Enero, Grade 11 student from the University of Cebu, the very challenging school year is also becoming more stressful and tiring.
He pointed out that there are so many challenges – but the most pressing is the lack of gadgets for those who wish to attend online classes. “There’s also the problem with internet connection and additional expenses but we’re not getting any support,” Enero said in a mix of English and Filipino. “It’s as if we’re left to fend for ourselves, we do not feel any academic ease at all,” he added.
Students, Enero said, are dropping out because they cannot handle the academic workload, the pressure, and the very stringent deadlines. “We’re being asked to produce outputs but we feel that there is no learning anymore,” he explained. “There’s no time for recreation and leisure, the school year is like a compliance – just to move to another level,” he shared.
Enero said that despite the concerns aired out by students, it seems that schools and DepEd do not recognize their ordeal. “It’s easy to say, ‘give compassion’ but it is being used as a scapegoat – it’s very disheartening,” he added.
Same old struggles
Siegfred Severino, a third year student from University of the Philippines – Los Banos (UPLB), said that many students are “struggling” – including him. “It’s hard, for both – students and teachers. To be honest, it [school year] feels rushed and we all feel the struggle,” he said.
Despite the implementation of a new learning set-up, Severino said that the way of teaching did not change. “Only the modes of learning were changed that’s why it becomes confusing,” he said. “Experiential learning is very important but professors are forced to transform this into online so it becomes output-based,” he added.
The ongoing pandemic also adds up to the stress that students are dealing with. “It’s hard to focus especially when people you know get infected with COVID and they are under quarantine.” Given this, Severino urged the national government, DepEd, and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to implement “genuine” academic ease measures.
“We’re calling for academic ease not because we’re lazy or we just want to complain – even our teachers see our struggle,” Severino said – noting that the deadlines and requirements given to both students and teachers should be eased and re-calibrated.
“There should be compassion because it’s very hard to learn at this time, the problem is systematic and this should be recognized this as a legitimate call coming from the sector of education,” he added.
Can barely keep up
Ruby Bernardo, a public school teacher in Sta. Lucia High School in Quezon City, said that teachers are also bearing the brunt of the distance learning set-up. “We feel a different level of exhaustion – mental drain, physical drain… it’s really very hard,” she shared.
Just like students, teachers need to cope with the challenges brought by remote learning. “We’re working more than what is prescribed by the academic year, we don’t get breaks and we’re always ‘on call’ when parents or our students need us, it’s hard to adjust,” she added.
Aside from the mental and physical exhaustion, Bernardo said that many teachers are also struggling with lack of resources. “Our salaries are not enough and now, there are additional expenses for distance learning,” she added.
Bernardo noted that like students, teachers need academic ease too. “The SLMs [self-learning modules] or learning sheets are not yet complete so we have to do these, many of us do not have gadgets but we’re still asked to hold online classes and even attend webinars,” she shared.
Teachers, Bernardo said, are also asked to manage homeroom guidance and other “monthly obligatory” activities. “We need to accomplish a lot of things almost at the same time so we feel that the ‘academic ease’ measures are nothing but mere lip service,” she appealed. “We hope that they take our concerns us more seriously,” she added.
These stakeholders shared the challenges under distance learning and underscored the need for “genuine” academic ease measures during the launch of SEQuRe Education Movement’s ‘THURSDAY HABIT’ last month.