Innovations needed to educate students in the new normal

“We must take advantage of this crisis and come up with innovative ways to educate our kids during this time of COVID-19.”

Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano as she pushed for the establishment of more “blended learning models” to educate Filipino children during the ‘new normal’, amid the disruption of schools due to the pandemic.

The Chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, Cayetano welcomed the plan of the Department of Education (DepEd) to use different learning modalities – including in-classroom study and individual study or online classroom work – for the basic education sector.

“Clearly, the  internet will play a vital role in this proposal, as online teaching is a key component of effective blended learning. So the improvement of internet access in schools and the provision of necessary equipment for teachers to conduct online classes is imperative,” she said.

But the senator also noted that the reality is not all Filipino households have access to the internet. Thus, the need to come up with other alternative modes of learning that can be accessible to more students.

“We tend to reject new ideas during ‘normal times.’ But a crisis is a perfect time to explore other options,” she stressed.

“Why don’t we explore and tap government channels – like PTV 4, IBC 13, and RPN 9 in various provinces – to air more educational shows? There is so much content out there that can be used to educate millions of Filipino children all over the country,” she suggested, adding that the channels can allot regular block time for subjects like history, science, geography, music, art, and more, in between broadcasting relevant news programs and official press conferences of the government.

“I would even recommend that English programs should not be dubbed and kept as is, to give our young learners the opportunity to hone their English communication skills while learning at home,” Cayetano further pointed out.

Meanwhile, in the recommendations she sent Malacañang pursuant to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Cayetano noted: “DepEd should provide an update on their preparation in the integration of blended learning in the curriculum, as it is not as simple as using the internet. It includes time in school, provided it is safe to return to school, and social distancing measures are put into place – such as having a smaller number of students attend a few days a week on a rotational basis for interaction with their teachers.”

The senator further suggests that around 20-30 percent of students per class may be allowed to go to school in areas where it is safe for children to go out. She added that the smaller classroom size will promote better interaction and make learning easier for the children.

Cayetano said DepEd can seek assistance from the University of the Philippines (UP) in further exploring online education as part of  its proposed blended learning systems. UP is mandated to share its knowledge and assist national agencies and educational institutions in developing distance education programs – including online learning management systems – under the Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), which the senator sponsored as former chair of the Senate Committee on Education.

“We need a Futures Thinking mindset to educate our children during the ‘new normal.’ Access to quality education is a vital tool in nation-building, and we must use this crisis as an opportunity to innovate and reinvent our education,” Cayetano said, stressing that inclusive and equitable quality education for all is one of the 17 SDGs that the Philippines seeks to achieve by 2030. #

Senator Pia Cayetano and DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones
File photo: Senator Pia S. Cayetano, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, leads a hearing on the basic education budget with Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones (back to camera) on the foreground.

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