August is our new back to school month, thanks to the pandemic that put a pause on our everyday lives in more ways than one.
After two years where our children had to adjust to remote learning, virtual classes and largely studying on their own, how have they fared? According to a report card shared by World Vision Development Foundation (WVDF) to its stakeholders across the country, sadly, not so great. Here are some of the pressing issues the students and their parents are facing as they make plans to return to face-to-face classes, or at least a combination of in-person and online lessons.
#1 Students under modular, online, and blended learning learned less compared to traditional face to face class set-up.
This actually comes as no surprise as many parents feared this all along. In a study by Movement for Safe, Equitable, Quality, and Relevant Education (SEQuRE) conducted from June 25 - July 2 last year, 60 percent of the parents said that their children missed an online class or failed to submit academic requirements on time, while 52% of the teachers noted that 4-6 in every 10 students lagged behind with their studies.
This could be because the same survey found only 1 in every 5 students had access to a computer, and not even half had internet connection at home. Studying on their own, 16 percent had no one to guide them, and many lost their access to resources usually found in schools such as reference books.
#2 Among countries in the Asia Pacific region, Philippine schools remained closed for the longest time since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Schools in the Philippines were closed for 20 months after the lockdown was imposed back in March 2020. In November 2021, the government launched a pilot scheme to reopen public schools in lower-risk areas, but just as the teachers and students were adjusting, a new outbreak in January this year put a halt to plans to stay open as well as reopen more schools.
The survey also showed that kids missed sports and other physical activities they used to have during face to face classes. One in 20 students also felt that their teachers were not well prepared to teach remotely.
#3 Remote learning increased learning poverty in the Philippines to 90 percent in 2021.
What does a 90 percent rate mean? This implies that only 1 out of 10 children aged 10 can read. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the learning poverty in the Philippines was already at an alarming 69.5 percent. In a 2021 publication called Remote Learning During Covid-19, the World Bank reported that "children’s engagement with remote learning is generally low where parents or caregivers lack any type of education and, in several countries, these children were three-to-four times less likely to engage in a learning activity compared to households where parents have tertiary education, as seen in the Philippines and Peru."
WVDF program officer Cecile Cenas, who is currently based in Lanao, shared the sentiments of parents in Marawi City. “Some mothers would share their frustration on how their kids cannot answer the modules because they have not learned or understood the lessons yet. Parents can only do so much to assist their kids, especially those in the younger bracket who could barely recognize letters. They said they really need the guidance of teachers.”
#4 The mental and physical health of students was also greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study published by PubMed Central shows that the anxiety that students experience does not only come from the threats of COVID-19 itself but also from social and physical restrictions, unfamiliarity with new learning platforms, technical issues, and concerns about financial resources.
According to SEQuRE, 3 to 4 students said remote learning had a negative effect on their mental health, leading to panic attacks, depression, anxiety, and mental and emotional stress. They may not be clinically diagnosed, but the students are experiencing the symptoms.
Linked to this problem is that 4 to 5 students said remote learning had a negative effect on their physical health. They had eyesight problems and frequent headaches, possibly from too much exposure to gadgets and computers.
Addressing the pandemic gap in learning
The pandemic has left a huge gap in the Education sector and it will take a comprehensive response to turn around the troubling situation. As a child-focused organization, WVDF has been collaborating with the Department of Education to provide the students and their families with the assistance they need to get their learning back on track.
In 2021, this meant distributing school kits to at least 24,000 students nationwide, plus mobilizing resources and partners to deliver education aids including software (workbooks and reference materials) and hardware (printers, toner, bond paper, and computer sets). Where needed, WVDF held remedial and tutorial activities with community educators and parents to support children who are trailing behind in their lesson and school requirements.
WVDF National Director Rommel Fuerte issued a plea for help in their newly launched fundraising campaign to better prepare the students and families for the opening of classes, in person, online or a blend of both. “Opening of schools and classes can only be a positive development for us. We target to replicate the success of last year’s Back to School campaign and give children in need a great start as the new school year begins.”
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.