The call for blended learning and innovations in education during the El Niño phenomenon
By Cristina Montes-Buquid
Based on the monitoring of conditions and model forecasts conducted by our Philippine weather authorities, the results showed that a warmer season may develop in the months of June to August with highest possibility that the warm situation may continue until the early quarter next year.
But as we have experienced today, the hot weather was felt earlier already or as early as March of 2023. Aside from the hazardous effect to agriculture and other sectors, the students under our Philippine education system was greatly affected and actually suffering from the high temperature brought about by the El Niño Phenomenon. Some students were already suffering from heat exhaustions, cramps and stroke to older ones specially with weak health conditions.
The pupils may have avoided the drastic effect of the heat season in school had the education authorities did not change the school season or semester based in the international set up by making the summer break in the month of June to July. Accordingly, the school furlough for students should be in that months were typhoon seasons are emerging to avoid exposure from the flood and rains. That intent however was good but, the effect of the El Niño was left unattended if not the less concern.
As most of the parts of the country are making their effort to cope with the summer heat, the Department of Education (DepEd) made a pronouncement and later becomes a written policy that school authorities could call off in-person classes to protect the health of their students and school employees. And to mitigate the effect, they are in fact ordered to adopt the blended learning approach that combines traditional face-to-face teaching method with online-based instructions or by just providing them modules where students can study at home. As we can remember, this blended learning was primarily intended during the devastating effect of the Corona Virus in 2019 or Covid-19 pandemic to provide continuity in education while we avoid being infected by the said Covid virus. This time, it now applies also in order to safeguard the pupils and the teachers/staff from the dangers of high temperature during the summer heat.
In furtherance to the said policy of the DepEd, our local education authorities had also issued a memorandum reiterating the said policy and emphasized the need to conduct a blended learning both in the public and private schools. The schools under these may adopt a half day face-to-face and online/modular instructions or a reduced face-to-face session in a week with online and module materials during the remaining days.
This is in fact very challenging on both the participants in the systems as it would entail dedication, hardwork and time adjustments. However, we have to understands that this is design to exercise precautions to avoid the vulnerability to negative health conditions without compromising education. Because as we know, education is must in our country being one of the pillars of our country’s progress if we are to achieve economic, political and social order. This can only be realized by producing graduates from quality educations catered by quality and strong educational system.
There has been a call to air-condition the classroom with the parents willing to share from the expenses of the unit and the electrical consumptions. This is somehow applicable to those who have much inside their purse to absorb the expenses. Unfortunately, in our public school settings, this is indeed hard to put into action knowing that most of the students came from a family who have lesser in life. Yet, this can be possible if we are to receive the support of the government and other non-governmental organization who are willing to help this shortcoming in logistics or school facilities. The government should somehow consider providing more budget to this as part of the operational expenses not only in the conduct of the day to day administrative operation and perks for DepEd employees but also on infrastructures or school buildings to accommodate the students and making it comfortable during this time if heat seasons. It is high time that we should already adjust to the demand of the times and it means that the government should already apportioned large financial infusion to education, focusing on the classroom modernization such as digitalization and conducive learning environment.
But it seems that this novel suggestion to air condition the classroom or at least provide a good ventilation in the school classroom for the pupils is yet far from reality. There has been a clamor already for the return of the old school calendar and called on the national government to bring back the April-May “summer vacation.” This is their version of addressing the high temperature by avoiding the seasons.
Upon recommendation of higher authorities in education, the legislator had already put it into their agenda and soon, will be deliberating to consider also issuing an order to bring back the old school year calendar.
Nonetheless, as educators, we are expected to support all the programs which tends to bring good to the system. We are in fact optimistic that this move to revert to the old school calendar will by some means ease the effect of the high temperature to students which they experienced in the class while in the school period that falls in summer season and where the El Niño phenomenon are mostly experienced.
The El Niño Phenomenon and the Covid-19 pandemics remains a challenge to the Philippine education. It calls for the system to be dynamic in formulating contingencies or policies that will adapt to the situations. We are fortunate that our government thru the officials of the Department of Education never falters and in fact remains strong and vigilant in finding ways to resolve the issues troubling education.
As a compliments for their unwavering commitment, we should remain also to be supportive to their agenda and innovative policies by embracing changes. After all, we are one in our vision to provide our children with quality education.