KAS DAY 1 Highlights 03 Mayor Stefani Eriguel

Mayor Stefani Eriguel (Agoo, La Union)

In the absence of face to face classes, one challenge was the need for the creation and reproduction of modules and this was something that we tried to address through fund allocation through our local school board. There were a lot of donations that came in for printing devices, printers. The LGU also purchased three risographs to address this need. Another challenge that was identified was the lack of Internet and gadgets for both teachers and learners for online classes, and so with the help of our provincial government, and the kind consideration of our governor, Pacoy Ortega, we were able to provide laptops to 600 teachers in our municipality and we are expecting another batch to arrive and we are providing internet access to all schools here in Agoo.

Another challenge brought about by the pandemic was the lack of information and technology skills, and training and digital competence which is needed by our teachers and many of our parents tasked with guiding students at home. This is something that we are looking into although we are very fortunate that Synergeia has initiated many of our workshops and trainings for our teachers and parents. But the municipality would also like to come up with our own training and workshops in the future.

There is one more challenge that I wish to emphasize: the difficulty of guiding learners in managing their modules and lessons. This brought about the Agoo Education and Learning Center and the Kapit Ka Lang ‘Bes program, two programs that I would like to expound later. 

Another challenge was the difficulty of communicating with parents regarding the students’ needs. And so here we saw the important role to be played by the community, the different barangay councils, school governing councils, the PTAs, parents, teachers, and here we were also able to mobilize our Sangguniang Kabataan. Definitely, you have to mobilize everyone when delivering basic quality education. 

Keeping in mind all of those challenges, we were able to administer a learning assessment exam. This was conducted around February to March this year. It was done with the guidance of our Synergeia mentors and what we did was to assess learning outcomes among Grades 2 to 6 learners for three core subject particularly Math, Science, and Filipino. For these grades, we have a population size of 3,410 students. We used a high confidence interval and low margin of error to make our results accurate and we came up with a total of 1,410 subjects which we studied across 18 public elementary schools in our municipality. We chose students who were performing averagely and those known to perform very well. 

These were the results per district, East District and West District, and the average. It’s not that we are trying to compare them or pin one district against the other. it’s just that when data is collected and collated, it is usually done per district. At the same time when we introduce interventions, we try to do them per district as well. For the performance for Math, you see a dip in the Grade 5 students. For English, there is a dip for our Grade 4 students. And for Filipino there seems to be a discrepancy between the data collected and the results of our East and West Districts although there is no apparent reason for this and we can look into it.

If you look at the averages of our Grade 2 and Grade 6 students, I don’t think it is something that we can boast about. Our averages scores range from 60 to 69% and although we don’t have any other data to compare this with, and we are not able to compare it with other municipalities, because not every municipality has taken the initiative to assess so although generally from someone who is outside the education sector technically I would think that this is really considered passing and that there is room for improvement but everything has to be measured. What really needs to be stressed here is all the municipalities, all the LGUs, must assess as soon as possible so that we have data to start with, data to improve on. 

Then again, looking at all the results, the question is: “are all our students really learning? Assessment is mainly output-based and we are basing on whether the students are able to submit their modules on time and completely and, if they are not able to do so, this means an increase in our dropout rates.   

Going back to the main challenge, how do we guide and assist our learners to complete their modules and lessons? We are thankful to Synergeia Foundation for assisting us in our workshops. It was in our SGC meetings that this problem was identified and, apparently, there a lot of students who are unable to submit their modules and lessons because of various reasons. These include poor living conditions at home. Children are being forced to work instead of study and some homes are unable to provide an environment that is conducive to learning. We also did see a rise in teenage pregnancy and there are also a lot of parents and guardians who are unavailable or not even at home or able to assist their children with their lessons.

Insights: how are we assured of the quality of education that our students receive? Are our students really learning and applying what they are studying? The best way is to assess. Even if assessment is difficult at this point given the constraints of the physical provision of exams, it still needs to be done one way or another. And we need to make information and avenues for information accessible to all. Even parents and teachers need support. I can’t stress enough how parents and even grandparents come to express how taxing and difficult the transition has been to them because a lot of the guidance has to come from them. We have to tap a lot of resources to engage and involve all of our stakeholders because it takes a village to raise a child and we need to adapt and innovative and maximize media. Education at the end of the day must remain inclusive. No child should be left behind. We need to make sure that we give the best opportunities to good quality education to all our learners, to all our children.

KAS DAY 1 Highlights 02 Fr Jett Villarin

Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ

In this conference, in this conversation, and as we try to re-imagine education beyond covid 19, we can be helped by reflecting on a double triage of choices that we need to confront now and even after the pandemic.  Ano yun?  The first sorting is all about separating the learned from the learning person.  And the second triage is about sorting the destroyer from the builder.  Let me explain.

The first triage: separating the learned, yung marami nang alam, from the learning person, yung taong laging natututo.  This pandemic has uprooted so many things, education being one of them. And our students most probably are feeling a heightened sense of insecurity especially when they compare themselves to those ahead of them who were taught, trained in the time-tested tools of conventional pedagogy.  Kita ko ito, kahit sa mga engineer, mga doctor.  “Ah, sa pandemic ka nag-graduate.  Medyo hilaw ka siguro kasi medyo blended lang…online.”  They are probably insecure.  They are probably thinking how inadequate and unprepared they are to the task ahead of them.  To which I say, sa tinuod lang, sa totoo lang,  no one is ever adequate to the task.  No one is ever fully prepared for a world that is always continually evolving. 

And so, if education is to teach our young ones anything, I hope it is to love learning.  I hope it is to never stop learning.  Fear stops learning.  Insecurity avoids learning, pride spoils learning. 

Alam ninyo kung merong lang akong pabaon, I wish that these words by Eric Hoffer can be burned in our minds.  I hope it will be a refrain for us all our lives, today or post-pandemic.  Eric Hoffer said this in 1973.  He said “The central task of education is to implant a will and a facility for learning.  It should produce not learned but learning people.  The truly human society is a learning society where grandparents, parents and children are students together.”   In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.  The learned usually find themselves…to live in a world that no longer exists.  The first triage for us is to separate the learned form the learning person.  If we choose learning over learned, then we will prefer bottom up to top-down approaches in teaching and learning, even in education governance.  That means subsidiarity, that means empowerment, that implies choosing the localized approaches, over centralized and uniform strategies in education.  Method, process, pedagogy over content.  The ‘how’ of learning over the ‘what of learning, especially in basic education.  We need not be threatened by variety and diversity.  We can leave our learned podiums and learn from below.  Learn from those whom we empower on the ground.  As learners, they will always be adopting our pedagogy and governance to context that never stops evolving in a post pandemic world. 

The second triage has to do with separating those who would destroy from those who choose to build. 

This pandemic has exposed our vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  Now stress has a way of uncovering many aspects of ourselves that were hidden before on a societal level.  Inequalities are more stark than ever. Between those who are homeless and those who are at home.  Between our children who go hungry every day and those who do not.  Those who can still catch school and those who are consigned to catch up…  laging naghahabol.  This pandemic has uncovered how impoverished our health system, our educational and political systems have been for decades.  And now we are learning painfully how bad structures, incompetence, corruption and even non-existent systems can be a matter of life and death.  In this pandemic you can deal with them not just by incompetence but by sheer numbness and negligence.  You only have to do nothing for things to depreciate and fall apart.  On the other hand, with all the closures and quarantine, there is no denying the openings that this pandemic is giving us.  Openings of conversion and renewal.  And we see heroic efforts of frontliners who continue to risk working and caring for others despite the danger they have become to their families.  Doctors, nurses, and other health care givers who would rather be home with their beloved and yet are isolated form them.  Dedicated volunteers, true public servants, in makeshift vaccination and testing centers, those in community pantries and other grassroots groups who have been tireless, tireless, in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and multiplying the little loaves of our will and spirit.  Busy teachers striving to teach, no matter the odds.  Students wanting to learn despite the disruption.  Scientists, researchers, working round the clock to create vaccines and every manner of cure to end this scourge.  They are all builders, not destroyers.  

So, amid the ruins and devastation, we are being ushered to a clearing of new possibilities and potential.  This is a time of creation.  Ours is a time for builders, not destroyers.  The rebuilding ahead of us will be massive.  And it starts with admitting that we can never go back to the way things were.  Which is just as well.  We have seen how unsustainable our good efforts were in the past.  How easy it was for others to uproot and destroy the good that was planted.  And while we endure this pandemic, let us already do this triage of separating those who like to threaten and demolish from those who are always laboring with courage and to create good things that will last.  And that means continuing conversion at the personal and institutional level.  That means transformation of culture, effective systems, structures, responsible governance.

KAS DAY 1 _ Regional Director Wilfred Cabral

Mr. Wilfredo Cabral, NCR Regional Director, DepEd

What were the gains in terms of our insights and realization in the implementation of the basic education learning and continuity plan in the previous school year? One is the readiness of our schools to invest and strategize in implementing distance learning and I’d like to point out that teachers are the best reflection of resilience, given the difficulties and challenges they were able to pull this through. I would like to highlight the support of our stakeholders, particularly our local government units, because this will not happen without their support as well, particularly on signing up our students to distance learning using the remote enrollment process and collaboration and partnership with our barangays, local government units and other stakeholders. We were able to enlist, register and enroll all of our learners to distance learning modality. We were able to organize teachers and learners in a class with primary consideration for teachers and learners some of which are on the qualifications of their proximity in the neighborhood and their preferences and of course our learners to ensure equity using block sectioning for those in the system looking at the neighborhood catchment areas and learning modality preferences. There are some approaches using one class-one modality or modality across classes and we consider their access to technology one of which is class within classes. We were able to simplify based on needs and preferences. 

Teachers, school principals, and all levels of governance were able to ensure that learning delivery, support, and assessments were available and accessible. One of the many practices that our division’s schools were able to implement—the use of integrative assessment, school learning clinics, centralized learning portal, some sort of kumustahan sessions with parents who served as tutors or learning assistance at home and the use of several platforms. We also recognized gaps between the actual and the desired and there is need to strengthen support mechanisms, such as the contextualization of defined parameters. 

In terms of basic input, we looked at how our learners and teachers are provided opportunity and availability of learning modules and how to navigate from the many sources that we have and in the household structural support, the working parents and those who are balancing household and supporting learners at home, and availability of learning space. I would like to point out that we allow the hiring of learning support aids in areas that demand presence of learning assistants and we look that as an intervention to address this gap. 

Learners and parents’ behavior: some of the learners were unable to finish the assigned tasks on time because of the volume of the modules and the activities they have to accomplish, there were instances that these were returned unanswered and no show without notice. In response, we allowed more time for our leaners to accomplish their work. Some parents’ behavior was not responsive, not even answering calls. 

Teachers, as I have said had difficulty navigating blended distance learning and deciding appropriate materials from different sources. It takes them more time to stay longer than usual because they have to address concerns coming from parents and learners. We recognize these gaps and acknowledge and accept losses pertaining to teachers and learners in the loss of contact time, achievement and confidence level of learning outcomes. Most particularly, the coverage of intended learning competencies, the contact time, low level of confidence, and notable difficulty in teaching and learning subject areas, like Mathematics, English, Science, TLE and EPP. This has been reflected in the results of the LAMP and this acknowledgement of losses will be addressed next school year. Probably some may ask why MAPE Music Arts and PE and Health appear to be difficult. Simply because of the different components of the different subjects and most require performance tasks and completion is quite a challenge for many of our learners. TLE/EPP–simply because this requires the use of tools and equipment and performance tasks and demonstration of the learning competencies. Mathematics, English, and Science, as we well know, are challenging subjects even in pre-pandemic times. 

What we do is to have the plan adjustment new stage experience that we had in School Year 2020-2021 as the benchmark and ensure that those losses are key considerations in the adjustments to the basic education learning continuity plan using best practices, processes, and initiatives from the previous school year which can be retained and scaled across the region for a more responsive learning continuity plan. The implementation of blended learning: we initiated an end to end preparation of a spectrum of curriculum instruction and assessment in all learning modalities. We strive to optimize the use of available learning platforms and ensure that there will be less dependence on printed modules. And because of the introduction and combination of all these learning modalities available to learners, we initiated teacher training, part of which is an estimated plan so that we know how much we can prepare and how many activities can be funded to ensure that this learning continuity plan will be responsive.