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Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

JAMCO Online International Symposium

29th JAMCO Online International Symposium

February 2021 - March 2021

The Potential of Broadcasting and New Media for Supporting Education During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Continuity of Education in the Philippines
Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Ferdinand B. Pitagan, PhD
National Teachers College

Abstract

COVID-19 has disrupted education beyond our wildest imagination thus governments around the world are now rapid prototyping solutions on how to continue learning, teaching and services amidst the pandemic. This paper explores how the basic and higher education institutions in the Philippines transformed the delivery of instructions in the new normal; outlines challenges; and draws key learnings.

Introduction

The Philippines has the first local 2019 – Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease (COVID-19) transmission last March 7, 2020 subsequently community quarantine was imposed. As of the November 8, there have been 396,395 confirmed cases (with 361,638 recoveries and 7,539 deaths), which is the 2nd highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia and ranks 7th in Asia and 25th in the world (Department of Health, 2020). Thus, Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) of the Philippines was convened last January 2020 to manage and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The crisis will cost the Philippine economy Php 2.5 trillion (approximately USD 51,918,750,000) in losses this year (Ramos, 2020) with the highest-ever unemployment rate of 17.7%, 7.3 million jobs lost (Teo, 2020). The Asian Development Outlook (ADO, 2020) Update projects a deeper decline in the Philippines’ economy than ADB’s June forecast of 3.8% contraction.

In addition, COVID-19 is disrupting education at unprecedented scale as most governments have closed down schools. According to UNESCO (2020), at the height during April 2020, there were 1,480, 292, 206 affected learners (84.5% of total enrolled) in 165 countries. In the Philippines, there are 28,451,212 students who are affected by the pandemic.

Figure 1. Affected Learners in the Philippines Due to School Closure – COVID-19



Source:https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse


President Rodrigo Duterte has formally declared a state of public health emergency in the Philippines and suspended all classes, in public and private, in Metro Manila from March 10 to 14, 2020. However, due to raising numbers of infections, the entire Philippines was placed under the state of calamity enforcing enhanced community quarantines by March 17, which directs all government agencies to assist, cooperate and mobilize resources for critical, urgent and appropriate responses and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the COVID-19 threat. Thereafter, although restrictions have somehow eased at certain parts of the country, schools are still closed for face-to-face classes. As quick response, educational institutions and organizations around the country are harnessing the different types of technology and modalities to continue learning, teaching and services during the pandemic.

The Basic Education

All basic education classes were suspended by March 10, 2020, which coincidentally is the last month of the school year 2019-2020. When the quarantine was extended, accommodations were given to students to pass their current year level. Consequently, the Department of Education (DEPED) moved the opening of classes for school year 2020-2021 from June 1 to August 24, 2020 then finally, on Oct 5, 2020.

Private basic education institutions were given the approval to open through distance learning by June 2020, following the issuance of DEPED Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) in the Time of Covid-19 (DEPED Order No 12 s. 2020) which aims to:

  • Protect the health, safety and well-being of learners, teachers, and personnel, and prevent the further transmission of COVID-19;

  • Ensure learning continuity through K-12 curriculum adjustments, alignment of learning materials, deployment of multiple learning delivery modalities, provision of corresponding training for teachers and school leaders, and proper orientation of parents or guardians of learners;

  • Facilitate the safe return of teaching and nonteaching personnel and learners to workplaces and schools, taking into consideration the scenarios projected by DOH and IATF, complemented by other credible sources, and balanced with DEPED’s own risk assessments;

  • Be sensitive to equity considerations and concerns, and endeavor to address them the best we can; and

  • Link and bridge the BE-LCP to DEPEDs pivot to quality and into the future of education, under the framework of Sulong EduKalidad and Futures Thinking in Education


Figure 2. DEPED Learning Delivery Modality During COVID-19



Source:https://www.DEPED.gov.ph/2020/07/22/ano-ang-pwedeng-learning-delivery-modality/


DEPED has formulated different learning modalities that take into consideration the access and availability of technology and connection for learning. It employs distance learning designed to continue education even if the teachers and students are physically remote with each other through the use of online/offline technologies, tv and radio, and printed modules. Also, blended learning is the combination of any of these modalities while home schooling is primarily done at home with a caregiver as teacher.

Even before the pandemic, the review of the K-12 Basic Education Curriculum has been on-going, however, the process has been fast track, which identified the 5,689 Most Essential Learning Competencies from the original 14,171 or 60% reduction. This is done through retaining, merging, clustering, removing, rephrasing existing competencies to address congestion and overlaps (DEPED MELCS, 2020).

DEPED also has rapidly prototyped the DEPED Commons which is the online platform to support the continuous delivery of basic education to Filipino learners. It aims to foster awareness and use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and encourage the open licensing of educational materials. Since the launch last March 17, 2020 it has integrated the private schools, alternative learning systems, special education stakeholders as users. It has also partnered with local mobile companies making access to the portal free for their subscribers. During the first nine weeks, 7,215,925 unique users have already registered and accessed DEPED Commons. To date, there have been good feedbacks across different stakeholders on the utilization of the portal (DEPED Commons, 2020).

The Learning Resources Management and Development System (LRDMS) has been the online resource repository of DEPED even before the pandemic and continue to serve as such. It contains 6,199 learning resources for learners; 1,587 resources for teachers; and 56 resources for professional development. In addition, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Star Books and the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) Teach Together Project have also donated numerous resources (DEPED Commons, 2020).

The different lessons across the K-12 Program for different learning modalities for all learners shall be converted to inclusive and interactive e-books and uploaded to the DEPED Commons as Self- Learning Modules (SLM). These modules would be in print, video lessons, and/or digital formats that will be used for blended learning, distance learning, homeschooling, and apprenticeship, either on top or in place of the traditional face-to-face learning modality (DEPED Commons, 2020).

DEPED will provide technology provisions by end of school year 2020 with 475,650 tablet PCs and 634,877 desktops/thin clients will be available for use by 21.4 million students, or about 94% of the 22,746,855 public school students, while 190,574 laptops will be available for use by teachers (22% of the total DEPED teaching force.) In addition, local government units and private organizations are providing technology augmentation to students and teachers across the country (DEPED Commons, 2020).

The Higher Education

Classes in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were also suspended from March 10, 2020 however, unlike the basic education institutions, HEIs were allowed to operate through distance flexible learning systems. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Advisory No. 1, Feb 11, 2020, outlined the response in to the prevention, control and mitigation of the spread of the COVID-19 and by March 11, 2020, the Advisory No. 2 contained the update and addendum putting emphasis on ensuring the safety and health of all students, faculty, staff and administrators which:

  • Enjoins all HEIs to follow the guidelines based on the current issuance of the Department of Health (DOH) and World Health Organization (WHO);

  • encourages a rigorous information campaign visible across multiple communication channels;

  • recommends everyday preventive actions;

  • establishes screening protocols and responses;

  • recommends review of attending, participating, and organizing events that draw large crowds; travel restrictions; and

  • extend in-house resources to students, faculty and staff.


The succeeding advisories culminated in the CHED COVID-19 Advisory No. 7, 24 May 2020 with following recommendations:

  • suspension of face-to-face or in-person classes until further directives from the IATF;

  • provision for the opening of summer classes;

  • suspension of the on-the-job training and internship programs (foreign and local) and mass gathering,

  • opening of classes for AY 2020-2021 shall be based on the HEI’s delivery mode;

  • adoption of a flexible learning strategy or mode in delivering instruction, processes and services;

  • compliance on health and wellness standards;

  • adoption of alternative work arrangements with a skeleton workforce

  • provide essential services to its clients;

  • establish a clear communication plan and transact using non-face-to-face means;

  • revise their academic policies;

  • respect the decision of families not to send their children to school due to concerns about their safety; and

  • other pertinent details.


Guided by CHED, most of the universities and colleges in the Philippines have implemented flexible learning systems to continue education which take into consideration the evolution of the educational landscape during and after the pandemic putting emphasis on analysis, design, implementation and evaluation of the different types of modalities to affect learning and teaching anchored on the tenets of inclusive and resilient education. According to CHED (2020), there are three modes of flexible learning: 1) online – which uses available online classroom for delivery of instruction; (2) offline – does not need any internet connectivity as learning is done through printed modules or digital media in storage devices; and (3) blended – combination of online and offline modes (Magsambol, 2020a).

Connectivity is one of the main issues in flexible learning as there are students who would have full access to technology and bandwidth, while others have limitations or no access at all. CHED admitted that poor internet connection, especially in the provinces, has made the conduct of fully online classes “not viable.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2020)

The CHED curriculum is learner-centered and outcome-based as most of the HEIs conducted curriculum reviews to respond thereby adjust to the new normal by concentrating on the core competencies, essential learning experiences and integrative assessments. Flexible learning is deeply rooted in learner-centeredness and outcome-based education (CHED CMO 4, 2020).

CHED has encouraged HEIs in the use of technology to support learning and teaching which include the determination of the level of technology to be used for the delivery of the programs based on student connectivity (CHED CMO 4, 2020).

Categories Availability of Devices Internet Connectivity Level of Digital Literacy Approaches
High Level Technology Laptops, mobile phones, tablets, desktops fast proficient Online or blended learning
Medium Level Technology mostly available phones slow advanced Online or blended learning (macro and micro learning)
Low Level Technology some mobile phones or no technology poor or no internet connection beginner Offline (self-instructional modules)

Source: Presentation of Dr. Juan Robertine Macalde, SEAMEO Innotech, CHED-SEAMEO Joint Webinar, 22 May 2020


In addition, continuous communication and services by providing capacity building administrator, faculty and staff and ensuring health and safety protocols for all stakeholders are hallmarks for flexible learning system (CHED CMO 4, 2020).

Moreover, The Innovation for Social Impact Partnership (ISIP) documented on how Philippine universities respond to the COVID-19 crisis through innovation and harnessing the power of research for public good (Bordado, 2020):

  • Batangas State University – fabricated faceshields for front liners by using vacuum forming process, assembly time is reduced producing at least 100 units per day;

  • Central Luzon State University – developed washable mask using nanofibers as filters;

  • Caraga State University – provided nanocellulose as face mask; covid-19 mapping; and online counseling sessions;

  • Central Philippine University – developed remote-controlled cart to deliver medicine, food supplies to confined COVID-19 patients;

  • Easter Visayas State University – produces disinfection form mixing ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and distilled water; and produced face masks and shields;

  • Saint Louis University – produced disinfectant chamber and aerosol boxes; face masks made of felt paper and coffee filters;

  • University of the Philippine – Diliman – produced low testing kits; N95 masks cleansing chamber; plasma treatment apparatus; and GIS tracker for PUIs

  • University of San Carlos – produced sanitations tents; disinfectant solutions; rice dispensers; and BIRDSEYE mobile apps; and

  • University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines – designed mobile isolated chambers, thermal scanners; misting booths and aerosol boxes.

Challenges

These solutions and provisions have positively impact the continuation of education in the Philippines, however, there are still challenges that need immediate attention:

  • The enrollment rate in basic education has ben steadily rising in the past years however, according to Magsambol (2020b), there are 24,723,533 students for school year 2020-21 lower by 3 million compared to last year. In addition, enrollment in private as well as state universities and colleges (SUCs) is expected to plunge by as much as 70 percent this coming school year (One News, 2020). This is due to economic hardships faced by students and their families caused by the COVID-19.

  • Private schools play a very crucial role in educating the young Filipino minds as their account for 16% of enrollment before the pandemic but there are now 748 out of 14,435 private basic educational institutions suspended operations affecting 3,233 teachers and 40,345 learners (CNN Philippines, 2020). In addition, more than 54% of the college students are in private schools Thus, the revenue loss is estimated at Php 55.2 billion (approximately USD1,146,366,000) if classes is to open last August 2020 (Manila Bulletin, 2020). On the top of the social and emotional implications to all educational stakeholders of school closure or transfer.

  • There is a need to train teachers and school leaders into the analysis, design, implement and assessment of distance learning in different modalities as according to DEPED there are only 95,156 teachers have been trained at this time or roughly 11% of the total teaching force of 847,467 (DEPED Commons 2020). The CHED shall implement developmental projects to assist institutions, faculty and students to transition to flexible learning (CHED CMO 4, 2020).

  • Although LMRDS, Commons and SLM DEPED; CHED OER Repository of CHED; and Resource Centers of different HEIs are adaptive and inclusive resource centers and there is provision for information sourcing, there is a need for a national leaning platform and a centralized module creation to ensure quality and standards.

  • There should a national plan for technology provisions for students and teachers specially those in the remote areas.

Key Learnings

The leadership by DEPED and CHED is commendable given the odds that Philippine education is facing before, during and even after COVID-19. The memos and advisories with collaborations with multi-stakeholders are consistent reminders that there is a working government mindful of its duty to continue education for all despite the continued challenges and difficulties. Also, noteworthy are educational institutions utilizing innovative approaches of how academics could inform policies; impact communities; and affect positive change specially during these trying times. In addition, the use of technology has been in the forefront of Philippine education, now being highlighted by the pandemic; and may it be online, offline, blended, tv/radio, printed module and other flexible modalities, it would remain as crucial part of the new learning and teaching after this pandemic. Lastly, education accounts for the top priority of any Filipino family; thus, the COVID-19 is just another educational crisis that would prove the resiliency of the Filipino people.

References

Ferdinand B. Pitagan, PhD

National Teachers College

Email : fb.pitagan@ntc.edu.ph
Homepage : https://iskomunidad.upd.edu.ph/index.php/Ferdinand_Pitagan

Dr. Ferdinand Blancaflor Pitagan is the Dean of the School of Education at the National Teachers College, founded in 1928, part of Yuchengo-Ayala Conglomorate, which has the one of the largest Graduate School Program in the Philippines and has put forth a resilient flexible remote learning system to continue education during the pandemic. Moreover, he delivers talks; conducts seminars and trainings; writes research journal articles; and produces pertinent resources on education, technology and society.

He was also Consultant/Specialist at UNESCO, leading the team of experts to make Open Education Resource (OER) more inclusive by integrating the tenets of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which was piloted in the Philippines and continued in Malaysia. At present, OER is at the forefront of resilient innovations for teaching and learning in the new normal.

In addition, he was educational technology consultant of Department of Educational and Commission on High Education; and worked at De La Salle University as department chair and eLearning director, University of the Philippines as professor, and Philippine Science High School as special science teacher. He also collaborated with Hiroshima Institute of Technology and Kansai University in the areas of ICT for Education.

Dr. Pitagan graduated with the degree of PhD in Education, International Christian University, (Monbusho Scholarship); MAED in Educational Technology, University of the Philippines DOST Scholarship and research fellow at Tokyo Gakugei University. Moreover, he was member of board of reviewer of Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D), Sage Open Journal, International Journal for Educational Media and Technology (IJEMT), and International Journal of Educational Technology in higher Education (ETHE); convener of The First Media and Information Literacy Intensive Teacher Trainer Program; co-founder of the National Digital Educators Society (NDES); founder of ActivatED.

Furthermore, he received notable awards: Best Filipino Teacher of the Support Your Dream Japan, Model Student of Rotary International and Gerry Roxas Leadership Award. He envisions a community of practice in technology integration into education which is flexible, inclusive, collaborative and in the service of others.

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