***This is the follow-up post for Teaching in the New Normal published on May 30, 2020.
As another school year comes to a close, there is one thing that noticeably changed since we transitioned to the flexible mode of learning.
For many Filipino families, education is one of the things that might be an answer to their struggles. It is also one of the few things that every family wishes to leave as an inheritance to their children.
Though this is a noble intention of many parents for their children’s future, a lot has changed since the last two decades of education – one game-changer is the Internet.
Because of it, learning is no longer confined inside the walls of our schools but is extended far and wide. We may even be closer to the time when degrees are no longer the ultimate credentials.
Observing the Inequity
Last month, I was a proctor for a qualifying exam in our college, and one requirement for each exam taker is to have at least two devices, one for video monitoring and another to access their online exam.
More or less 1300 examinees were vying for only 315 slots, a number dictated by our limited capacity. The examinees were also divided into four batches. So each proctor will have to monitor ten students in the morning and another ten in the afternoon, four times.
Though I have a vague idea of how students’ lives differ, I was shocked to witness just how wide the gap is. I then realized that many of my students are like this. They live different lives and lifestyles but are still trying their best to learn.
Education in the Time of a Pandemic
Though the Internet is a prime factor in educational reinvention, the biggest accelerator would be the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As educational institutions tried desperately to keep the schools open and keep students engaged in learning, teachers can only do so much for their students.
On the other hand, students are also experiencing radical changes in their learning process, especially for those who are used to face-to-face instructions.
Still, most teachers of all ages will try to cope and do their best to prepare their students for an unknown future, as long as they keep their end of the bargain.
Observing the current form of education.
As an instructor in a state higher education institution, it is almost impossible not to notice that less fortunate students are steadily losing the playing field.
Though imperfect, the school system used to be something that provides a sort of equal opportunity to students and offers a push for the financially burdened but academically inclined learners.
It is as if decades have passed when students of many walks of life would go to the same classroom to learn, use the same equipment to experiment or visit the same libraries to study.
The free tuition fee is also something that made it even more favorable for financially struggling students. However, that may no longer be true in the current school setup of flexible learning.
Flexible learning strategies are stressful for both teachers and students, who were both forced to adapt quickly so that no one will be left behind… ideally.
The added challenge to the already challenged.
One factor that changed was the transition from face-to-face instruction to online instruction. Before the pandemic, students’ problems were primarily their everyday needs such as food, transportation, allowance, and other usual fees in learning materials.
Today, with financial burdens striking families’ livelihood, students who would typically focus on their education full time were forced to work to supplement their families’ needs.
There is also the need to buy smartphones or laptops to engage in online classes and other related activities. On top of that, cellphone loads are also added to the everyday expenses, which will incur additional costs to students.
What’s worse, for families with multiple students, the cost multiplies. Say, for a family with three children, there should be three devices and a cellphone load for each of them to maximize their learning.
Home setups which are also usually not a factor during school hours, are now a consideration. The size of the house, a dedicated study room, the people living in the area, and even the dogs and roosters in the vicinity can hinder a student’s learning.
The privileged gained more privilege.
On the other side of the socio-economic spectrum are the more financially secured students. They don’t have to work to supplement their needs, and they can study in peace and have access to devices and the Internet.
I am not saying that it is their fault for enjoying such privileges. I am just pointing out that our current situation tipped the balance in favor of those already at an advantage.
Trying to teach the best way we can.
As teachers, we would generally try our best to give the quality of education that our students deserve, but we are limited. We can’t share everything we know and often resort to transferring the burden of understanding topics to our students.
It is tough to teach with added distraction, and as much as we would love to teach, there are many added factors, such as reports, documentation, and designations, that were previously unnecessary.
We also have to experiment with other forms of teaching such as video presentations, Facebook Learning Groups, Google Classrooms, YouTube Channels, and other learning management tools.
It is also unknown to many students, but we are just as stressed as they are, maybe even more. We are not just educators. We are also students, administrators, researchers, advisers, counselors, and many more.
Because of that, we will need to explore other ways on how we can distribute the stress if we will try to survive teaching during the pandemic without spreading ourselves too thin.
No one knows when this pandemic will end or if the educational approach will revert to the pre-COVID practices. Still, we can be certain that only time will tell.
With three full semesters in this current setup, burnout may be in sight – both for teachers and students. Still, we will try our best to adapt.
We have to keep the faith that this will eventually end, and we will proceed in a better, new normal. God Bless.
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