Covid19 pandemic has given the education sector a paradigm shift in terms of teaching platforms. However, there are challenges that teachers and/or school administrators find it overwhelming to some. For example, many of our pupils are without gadgets, reliable internet access and/or technology struggle to take part in digital learning; this gap is seen not only in the Philippines but also between income brackets across the globe. For example, I read in one article that 95% of students in Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork but only 34% in Indonesia do, and I think, this is the case in the Philippines.
At present, in my school, Sto Nino 3rd, only 3% percent have their own computers in their homes. We need to understand that in our country, here is a significant gap between those from privileged and disadvantaged backgrounds: whilst virtually all 15-year-olds from a privileged background said they had a computer to work on, nearly 25% of those from disadvantaged backgrounds did not. While some schools of affluent families (UST, La Salle and others) and some local government units (especially 1st class cities) have been providing digital equipment to students in need many are still concerned that the pandemic will widen the digital divide. This is a great challenge that the Department of Education is trying to cope up with. In our one year experience, we are asked: how effective is the online teaching/learning platform?
For those who do have access to the right technology, there is evidence that learning online can be more effective in a number of ways. Some research shows that on the average, student-learners retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This is mostly due to the students being able to learn faster online; e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because students can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they choose. Parents meanwhile have also patiently allocated some time to help their children in answering their modules at home. But as principal of Sto. Nino 3rd Elementary School, the effectiveness of online learning varies among age groups. Some reactions from teachers particularly in the elementary level, the general consensus on children, especially younger ones, is that a structured environment is required, because kids are more easily distracted and don’t have the patience to sit for hours. Teachers said that in order to get the full benefit of online learning, there is a need to have a concerted effort to provide this structure and go beyond duplicating a physical class/lecture. Since studies have shown that children extensively use their senses to learn, making learning fun and effective through use of technology is crucial. It is always observed that over a period of time, creative integration of games has demonstrated higher engagement and increased motivation towards learning especially among younger students, making them truly fall in love with learning, especially on-line learning. What then could be education’s imperative at present, we may ask?
It is crystal clear that COVID19 has changed our Philippine educational system and that, for some pessimists, they assert was already losing its relevance. One scholar even outline “how schools continue to focus on traditional academic skills and rote learning, rather than on skills such as critical thinking and adaptability, which will be more important for success in the future.” What, the, could be done? Will this online learning be the catalyst to create a new, more effective method of educating students? While some worry that the hasty nature of the transition online may have hindered this goal, I believe that e-learning could be part of their ‘new normal’. What has been made clear through this pandemic is this: If online learning technology can play a role in our educational system, it is incumbent upon all of us to explore its full potential. So be it.