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That Thin Line of Going Online

There had been so much debate in past years on changing the start of classes from June to August or September. Who knew that it wouldn’t take a congressman, senator or a president, to push it forward? Kids, at least, there’s something you could thank the virus for.

In one of the President’s announcements in the middle of May, he had put his foot down with a declaration of ‘no vaccine, no classes”. Later, “no classes would be clarified to mean “no (face to face) classes”. (My favorite part there was the President’s advice for the children to use their time, for the meantime, on playing. “Maglaro muna”. I suppose he meant video games which wouldn’t require face to face contact.) Okay, fair enough. That was actually the easy solution which DepEd authorities seemed to hesitate or were afraid to propose. Other Asian nations who have allowed opening of classes quickly experienced infections among pupils which warranted to make such a stand. I have to admire the President’s strength in making a bold and necessary declaration. Before the “no vaccine, no classes” announcement, DepEd had in its options the holding of face to face classes, with presumably protocols in place. But consequently, that option had been slashed out; leaving the education department with online classes and modular learning or a combination of both to choose from.

Online classes certainly has its merits. In fact, one private school in Naga has started virtual sessions and so far seem to be doing well. Online learning continues the interaction of traditional face to face classes, completely removing the chances of infection through physical contact. Furthermore, this setup eliminates commute time and everything that comes along with it, purchase of printed materials, and allowance that children use to buy snacks and toys from vendors along the school fence. However, going online requires gadgets or devices for exclusive utilization of each pupil and reliable internet connection. That may sound so simple that I could fit them in one short sentence; but it’s not as easy as it sounds. If a school or a whole district, division, or even the whole DepEd ventures forward in this modality, each child has to have his/her exclusively own desktop computer or laptop computer or tablet or smart phone. I don’t mean that one with the monitor on the corner of the living room that’s for the whole family, which father, mother brother and sister has to take turns in a schedule to use. Each child has to have his/her own. In case, you’re not seeing the logic behind that, each child presumably would be taking classes simultaneously, just like in the traditional face to face classes. So that family desktop computer would just serve one child. Now, you’re probably thinking that all those youngsters have their own gadgets, the ones they use to go online on social media, to play online games, take selfies, and post their tik tok dances. Although the population of prepubescent posters seems to indicate a considerable number, let us cast our thoughts on the children who run around the streets with thinning rubber slippers; those who would run quickly to the sidewalks when a tricycles suddenly rumbles along, and they have to momentarily suspend their game of tumbang preso. Let us also cast our thoughts on the tweens and teens who have to scratch up cash for time at the neighborhood Internet café to finish a class project. Yes, some college students are also included in that group. I guess some families have at least one device, and that would be set in a ratio to around five kids in the household. Almost all surveys indicate the large population of prospective pupils who do not have access to a gadget for online classes. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that each Filipino child would be able to pop out a device for virtual learning. Here comes the issue of Internet connection. All households with pupils should have access to the internet; and we’re not talking about data for a few hours on Facebook. This is connection that could let the user effectively interact on video chat, and watch videos which would be the primary instructional materials. When considering this issue, please think of the rural areas, coastal areas, and islands that make up a substantial part of the Philippine archipelago. Once again, for the sake of argument, let’s say the state manages to pull off connecting the whole nation to its nooks with Internet access. How reliable would that access be? I would assume that the pupils and student would be using those connections all at the same time, along with the adults who would go online for business and pleasure. Just imagine the effects.

Would I be a pessimist if I say that the public school system doing online classes is wishful thinking? Now, how do we do modular learning?

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1

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