New normal learning: ‘We are ready’
CEBU CITY, Philippines — For the first time in her two decades of teaching, Rebecca Padayhag will not personally meet her pupils in Matutinao Elementary School in Badian town, southwestern Cebu.
This Monday, October 5, Rebecca will be back practicing her profession but in an entirely different way.
The 58-year-old native of Pagadian City says she is excited and that she looked forward to how things will turn out.
“I am excited and looking forward to how this new normal setup will work,” says Rebecca.
Classes in all public schools in the country for the academic year 2020 to 2021 will resume this Monday.
However, due to threats of the coronavirus pandemic, both public and private schools have implemented major adjustments in learning just to ensure that it will continue.
The Department of Education (DepEd), for their part, introduced a mix of various channels where both teachers can still impart and share knowledge with their students.
Called the ‘new normal in learning’, it included modular distance learning, online classes, broadcast-aided instructions, and blended learning which is a combination of these modalities.
In Cebu, teachers like Rebecca, students, and officials from DepEd in Central Visayas (DepEd – 7) says they have readied themselves for this eventuality.
In Rebecca’s case, she and her fellow co-teachers have spent their summer attending online seminars, also called as webinars, to equip themselves with the necessary skills and knowledge they will need.
“During summer, we had online seminars and preparations started for the new normal classes,” says Rebecca.
She will be handling students in the fourth grade as well as six subjects — English, Mathematics, MAPEH (Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health), Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (ESP), Araling Panlipunan (AP), and Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP).
A total of 22 students will be under her advisory, too.
Rebecca says she is not only excited for the new normal in education but she has also prepared for this.
“We are ready. All modules are printed,” says Rebecca.
DepEd-7 Director Salustiano Jimenez, in a separate interview with CDN Digital, also assures that all public schools in Cebu are prepared to greet the first day of classes.
“We have been monitoring and visiting schools all throughout Cebu for the past couple of weeks. We personally checked their readiness. And we observed that they are indeed ready for the opening,” Jimenez says in a mix of English and Cebuano.
Due to the economic impact brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, DepEd-7 has seen an increase in the number of students, who will be studying in public schools for this school year.
Jimenez says they have already went beyond their target number of students enrolled in public schools all over Central Visayas.
“We have achieved 110 percent in our target number for enrollees in public schools,” says Jimenez.
DepEd-7 aims to have 1.7 million enrollees for this academic year.
This means that as of September 30, 2020, students enrolled in public schools all over Central Visayas have already reached approximately 1.9 million.
However, the same cannot be said with private schools as the count only have reached around 182,000 as of September 30, 2020 which, Jimenez says, is just 59 percent shy from their target for this year.
“Although our enrollment in private schools has surpassed the national average, which is below 59 percent,” adds Jimenez.
The department is targetting to have 300,000 students enrolled in private schools for this school year.
Jimenez also confirms that several privately owned schools in Cebu have notified their agency that they will be temporarily ceasing their operations for this school year due to the effects of the public health crisis.
Of the 25 private schools that have submitted their letters of intent to DepEd-7 for suspending their operations, Jimenez says that at least 23 of these come from Cebu island.
On the other hand, the DepEd-7 top official also says that enrollment for both public and private schools continues as of October 1, 2020, and will likely last until the first week of November.
With this, Jimenez says that they are projecting the figures of enrolled students in both types of educational institutions to increase as the weeks progress.
Meanwhile, Jimenez says majority of schools in Cebu have opted to do modular distance learning, citing inaccessibility to internet connection in areas where have they belonged.
“All schools have options. Some divisions decided to do online but mainly, they chose modular which involved printed modules. This is expected as we have foreseen issues that could arise due to unstable or absence of internet connectivity,” explains Jimenez.
Richard (not his real name), a junior high school student enrolled in a private school in Talisay City, says he is glad that his school opted to do modular distant learning instead of online classes.
“Our school still belonged in Metro Cebu where internet connectivity is still accessible but I’d prefer modular instead of online. With printed modules, I don’t have to be regularly online and stare at my laptop screen for hours,” says Richard in Cebuano.
The 16-year-old boy comes from a middle-class family based in Minglanilla town. He already owns a laptop even before the pandemic started which can give him an advantage if online classes will be pursued.
“Not all my classmates have laptops and not all have internet connections. It’s just fair our teachers choose modular distant learning, and I’m glad about it,” he added.
Back in Badian, located approximately 95 kilometers southwest of Talisay City, Rebecca says they will be doing modular distant learning also.
However, unlike Richard’s case, she and her colleagues face bigger challenges than the lack of laptop and unstable internet connection.
Rebecca says they will be regularly be visiting the areas where their students live to check if they have access to electronic devices and the web.
“We do it by schedules and per purok. No children will be left behind. If we can’t meet them during the scheduled purok visit, we will do house-to-house visit to make sure children’s learning will continue and address concerns,” says Rebecca.
She also shares that their school is hoping to be provided with more printers soon.
“In our school, we have four printers and we have eight teachers. Two teachers share one printer for the printing of the class module,” says Rebecca.
“In one module, we print at least 10 to 35 pages. We have to print new modules every week. God willing, we hope to have new and more printers soon,” she adds.
For DepEd-7’s part, Jimenez assures teachers that they are constantly monitoring their situation especially in the dates beyond October 5.
“Everything about this school year is new. We’re always checking and assessing the concerns and situations in our schools, and we assure our teachers that DepEd-7 can address these, and will be able to provide whatever assistance they need,” said Jimenez.
Missing face-to-face classes
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country continue to increase and as of October 3, the Department of Health (DOH) has documented a total of 319, 330.
Of this number, 58, 606 have remained as active cases.
Separate data from DOH-7 reveal that Central Visayas’ total confirmed COVID-19 cases have reached 21,120, with 18,513 recoveries, 1,288 mortalities, and 1,319 active cases as of October 3, 2020.
Not taking any chances with the virus that still lingered, Jimenez says schools nationwide are told to strictly prohibit face-to-face classes as well as in permitting students to enter school properties.
“We must remember that we are still in quarantine and health protocols are still in place, which means minors are not allowed to go out of their homes,” says Jimenez.
“This is why we keep reminding our teaching and non-teaching personnel to prohibit students from going to schools, and our parents that they should not bring their children especially when getting or submitting their modules,” he adds.
Jimenez also says there should be no direct contact between visiting parents and teachers
In Matutinao Elementary School, Rebecca says they will be putting the modules inside an envelope which then will be placed on armchairs.
“Parents will just check the names of the armchairs where we will be placing the envelope of modules. It will be one parent at a time to get inside the room, too,” she explains.
Both Rebecca and Richard say that personal interactions inside a classroom is what they will miss most in this academic year’s ‘new normal’.
“I’ll really miss the things that go along with face-to-face classes. Not only I can focus more but I also miss meeting and greeting my classmates,” says Richard.
But both also state that they will do their best to ensure not only a fulfilling education but also a promising future.
“As a teacher, it is my duty to help the students in any way we can. I know this is a little bit challenge for us, parents, and children but I know we can do things together,” says Rebecca. /dbs
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