KAS DAY 1 Highlights 06 Joselito Calios

Joselito Calios, Education Program Supervisor, DepEd Division Office, Pasig City

The pandemic has revealed the many frailties of the system of education that we used to know and the experiences that we have encountered. Our struggle to implement different learning modalities in sustaining the education of children in the middle of a pandemic should point us in the direction of creating a school system that will be resilient to any interruption.

Schools of the future will use hybrid classroom modalities. Instructional technologies will be described to make instruction more holistic. Essential learning competencies will make up a curriculum that is more relevant and compact in size, thereby decongesting daily instruction of lessons. With all these education reforms, teacher proficiencies must be upgraded because teachers are the front liners in implementing all these policies and programs. 

And so as I said earlier, teacher development programs must evolve with the changing education environment. Its design and implementation must adhere to sustainability of teacher competencies. These means learning and development activities must be made for long-term goals and not just for the sake of doing temporary training every time a pedagogical height comes to mind.

So what TPD programs can be offered to teachers to be able to cope with post-COVID classroom?

Effective professional development for teachers should be content-based so that it should incorporate active learning, support collaboration, use models of collaborative practice, provide coaching and expert support, and offer feedback and reflection of a sustained duration. 

We go back to the focus group discussion that I conducted with some of our teachers in our school’s division. I asked them to select from 11 different means that they considered to be the most effective in building teacher proficiency, especially when regular classes come back any time sooner.

Surprisingly, the top choices were team building, learning action cell or the quality circle, and teaching demonstration. When asked why most preferred joining a team building activity, they were quick to explain that mental health of all personnel should be recharged after having been drained by the many rigorous tasks that the previous school year demanded from them. They also felt the need to rebuild and strengthen their sense of teamwork which was lost due to the no-contact work policy also caused by the pandemic. They believed that collaboration between and among teachers is a strong force in building professional competencies and so teachers seem to learn more effectively when they collaborate. This component of proficiency development can be promoted to team building activities. 

The learning action cell or quality circles is another teacher professional development feature that can bring more help to teachers in upgrading their instructional skills to a higher level. It has the qualities of a learning program that is practical and sustainable because they are easy to manage and are cost-efficient. 

Time and timing of TPD are relevant to teacher professional development. Scheduled capacity building activity should be properly calendared so that they do not interfere with other similarly significant TPDs or endeavors for student development, school management, and other programs of the Department of Education. 

Sustainability saves on financial and logistical resources for the organization. The Department of Education may not hold too many trainings and workshops to reinforce proficiencies of teachers. When TPDs are consistently followed through, the results will be far-reaching and goal-meeting even when fewer programs and activities are undertaken.

Finally, the teacher and the learner should be at the heart of the policies and decisions we make for the program implementation plan of the organization. And on this final note, I quote the author Laura Lipton:

“Professional development is a collective resource, not a personal prerogative. Peer engagement forges powerful links between teacher learning and student growth.”

KAS DAY 1 Highlights 05 Mayor Rex Gatchalian

Mayor Rex Gatchalian (City Mayor, Valenzuela City)

In my observation, when I started as mayor, a lot of LGUs don’t have functional school governing councils. I am guilty of it also. When I became mayor, I didn’t even know what a school governing council was. All I knew was PTA and Local School Board. I realized with the help of Synergeia that we have to come up with school governing councils. It is another tool that indicates the school as an establishment within its own barangay. 

Sadly, a lot of LGUs don’t have functioning school governing councils and, if we do, we don’t understand its standing or function. When we were launching the school governing council in Valenzuela, people were complaining that it was a redundancy because we already had PTAs. That shows that the school governing council is not on top of our minds when we talk about education. Without a school governing council, the school virtually runs by itself and is isolated from the community. The SGC has members from the barangays. It will integrate the school’s effort with the overall effort of the barangay. 

When it comes to the PTA, I realize that they were fund-raising associations rather than a community of engaged parents. Whenever we talk about PTA, they talk about fundraising for equipment, selling tickets for a concert, for a beauty pageant, and, sadly, it seems that our PTAs have lost their way. They don’t seem to know what role they have to play and, in their minds, when you win as PTA president, you don’t get involved with the learning life of the students because that is the teacher’s job. In their mind, they are there to raise funds for the school so that they can buy things for the school. Our PTAs seem to have lost their way. They are there to create a community of engaged parents. 

Imagining the education setup post-COVID, let me start by saying that it is time to deconstruct that whole bureaucracy that we have, building it from the ground up, revitalizing each of those units, clearly defining the roles of each of those bureaucratic levels. If I were in an ideal world setting I really believe that it should be a pyramid more than an inverted triangle. Everything should start from the bottom. We all know that structures with big bases or foundations tend to be more sustainable and stronger and more responsive. We have to start with a bottom-up approach rather than a top-to-bottom approach. We have to widen the structure at the lower levels, the PTA, the SGC, the LSB. Empower them some more so that these bases become the foundation of the new learning structure. The PTAs, the SGCs, the LSBs, the division offices must play a bigger role in the post-COVID 19 education system and everything should emanate from the bottom going up.

Learners must always be prioritized. In the current system the middle of the program tends to be the mayor, we tend to forget why we craft certain programs. But we have to go back and see that the center of it all should be the learners. Programs are crafted for the learners. We should understand that we have to listen to the learner all the time. We have to come up with assessment tools and we have to always listen to the learner. 

One thing that we started in Valenzuela with the help of Synergeia are the focused group discussions, not just with teachers, not just with the division, but with students. How do we craft programs if we do not understand the needs, desires, and wants of our students? And I think it is a good practice seen here with the help of Synergeia to always conduct routine focus group discussions. Recently, we ran one on their opinions on distance learning and we have a lot of learnings from there that we can tailor fit to the incoming school year.

When it comes to the PTA, we believe that we have to start transforming our PTA from fund raising associations to engaged communities of parents. We have done this in Valenzuela with the help of Synergeia. We first of all explained to them the function of PTAs. They are not there to raise funds but to become an engaged community of parents. We empowered them through training and they themselves, the core group of parents and teachers became the trainers of other parents. 

For the School Governing Councils, in an ideal world, we have to go back to basics. First of all, we have to push schools to form their SGCs. I believe that a lot of schools do not have functioning SGCs. We have to fast track that. Mobilize SGCs and capacitate each one to make them understand their functions. We have to empower SGCs by making them part of the solution. In Valenzuela, we gave them a say in crafting the budget. We gave them a program called “Bottom-Up Budgeting” taking it from the program of Secretary Robredo, where the SGCs were tasked to craft programs that they believe will address a specific need in their schools. They were the ones who crafted the programs and the winning entries were provided funds from the LSB. We saw that these programs are sustainable because it came from them. They felt empowered. Look, my program is addressing a specific need which I know is really important and it is funded by the local school board. Bottom-up budgeting is a form of empowerment of our SGCs and PTAs. 

When it comes to the local school board, we have to expand its membership. We have to de-monopolize it from the mayor’s hands by adding more community leaders or stakeholders to make it more representative and participatory. When you have more people at the table, it becomes less mayor-centric because there are more voices to be heard and it becomes a more consultative body. With more representatives there, you get an SEF budget that is more of the students, by the students, and for the students. 

It can no longer be programs crafted for the political gain of the mayor or of a public servant who is part of the LSB. I really believe that in an ideal setting, we have to unshackle the LSB to be able to formulate programs to address problems on the ground but not limited to supplemental programs.

KAS DAY 1 Highlights 04 Principal Rogie Espulgar

Mr. Rogie Gonzales Espulgar, Principal of Bacjawan Sur Elementart School (Concepcion, Iloilo)

We reflect on these experiences because we will be opening another school year on September 13 and hoping that we will be able to address these issues. In Concepcion where we have 36 elementary schools and four secondary schools, 22 are from the islands. These island schools can be reached roughly 30 minutes. Others around two hours of travel by boat. Since Internet connection is not really good and most of the schools here are technologically not ready, majority of our learners were in distance learning, specifically with the use of the printed modules. 

I think much of the struggles that we experienced was the reproduction of modules. The schools most of the time were responsible for the printing of the self-learning modules for our learners. And we need to produce in the context of Bacjawan Elementary School where there are 369 learners. We need to produce 369 SLMs for the eight learning areas at different levels and an estimate of 189,000 per quarter The school was only receiving P106,00, so there was really a gap in the schools’ maintenance and operating expenses and the amount we need to spend on the modules. We need to pay for our electricity, water expenses, and other basic supplies. As a school head, I have to take charge of the provisions, bond paper, ink, printers. Sometimes, I have to finance it myself or even the teachers. 

Another extra challenge for teachers when they transport the papers by boat and spend an extra amount for this. They also have limited sources of electricity. We are using solar panels or a generator as the case may be and there were also some teachers who would stay in the mainland for days to reproduce the modules and distribute them. We had an incident where one of the teachers assigned in the farthest school of Concepcion. Their boat capsized in the middle of the travel. Fortunately, the teacher survived but nothing was left of the printed material paper and printer. There were some parts of school year when the lockdown happened and teachers were quarantined because they were exposed to the virus. A lot of adjustments were done in the production and distribution of modules. This took us two weeks to normalize operations. 

Sad to say, although we were able to respond to today’s educational landscape, our attention was on the accomplishment of what we need to submit. On the end, of the LGU, I would like to highlight the assistance of our mayor, Hon. Raul Banez in Concepcion for providing us photocopy machines and printing materials. I think this is one of the largest. There are 48 schools, elementary and secondary, and around 6000 plus learners that is why there were some issues on the sustainability. It is no joke to continuously provide printing modules every week to this number of learners. Our barangays also donated handwashing facilities. Our SGCs donated face masks alcohol and other disinfectants and somehow this helped support the management of our schools. 

Our assessment focused on the somatic test, an exam written every quarter and another one is the performance task where the learner must submit output as evidence of the competencies. Again, we have some issues regarding the reliability of the assessments given. Were the learners are really answering the modules? Whether the facilitators are helping them out? Were they honestly answering the somatic tests by themselves? Were the performance tasks accomplished by the learners? These are questions that I emphasize to our teachers and remind our parents and learning facilitators: honesty and integrity in taking these exams. If they do not have full command of the situation. Experiencing this in the past years, we have done adjustments and interventions in the context of our schools to address some of these issues.

While the department is really working on the quality of the education that we can give to our learners in that the schools stakeholders specifically teachers as front liners in realizing this goal considering the challenges of the pandemic that they are facing today, there are a lot of things to ponder. Implementation of the different learning modalities especially The pandemic has changed the educational landscape especially on the instructional delivery. All our decisions as school education stakeholders, we always put the learners at the center so that, as much as possible, no one is left behind. The quality and equity of education of our learners should be still at the top of our priorities. 

I am Rogie, a school leader still committed to continue my advocacy in giving quality education to Filipino learners. At the end of the day I have to say to myself, I did it well. Para sa bata para sa bayan.