In May 2020 I wrote about the Philippines’ terrible idea to close schools for a year. It now looks like stretching into two. Quotes from self:
Keep in mind that many families are very poor and lack internet access. Even if they have it, connections tend to be slow and unreliable. There is not a good alternative to physical lessons that will be available in the near future.
Let’s say, in an absolute best-case scenario, we develop an effective vaccine against Covid-19 in two years. It’s probably impossible, but let’s imagine.
It turned out to be one year but the Philippines will not have the population vaccinated any time soon. In fact, my present estimate is never.
What are they doing about education in the meantime?
It’s worse than I guessed.
Schools are sending out weekly ‘modules’. These are sets of worksheets for the students to complete. There’s no explanation, no reference to textbooks that they already have, no Zoom lessons, no educational websites set up for each grade level and subject, no TV or radio shows to explain how to do it. Many families lack sufficient internet access to research things for themselves, if they had the wherewithal to do that. Any libraries open are poorly resourced.
The educational strategy is, ‘Somehow teach yourself and finish the sheets by Friday.’
The tests are done the same way.
Modules are graded without much feedback that might help confused students.
This is particularly useless for primary school students as research shows they don’t benefit from homework at all. It’s mostly doled out to keep parents happy.
I’ve had a look at these modules. Many questions are poorly written and some answers are incorrect. Parents were making fun of nonsensical questions on social media until an education honcho threatened legal consequences. The modules provide a single, explanation-free example for each section. In many cases I think, ‘The best answer is a but the teacher is probably wanting b because a is too complex and I doubt she understands it herself.’
How are families coping with this? In one of two ways.
Rich families are paying ‘tutors’ to help their kids complete the modules. In most cases this means the tutors themselves complete the modules, including the tests. You’d need a full-time teacher to explain the material in its entirety – in other words, an operating school.
Poor families with no educated aunt or neighbour to help are screwed.
The rich win the Covids again.
Rich or poor, no learning is taking place in the Philippines right now. If students ever return to school, their learning will have deteriorated so terribly that the Covid generation are going to be stigmatized throughout their careers and every task that requires education is going to be completed to a lower standard than was previously the case.
This, in a country sadly lacking adequate education to start with, is a bloody disaster.
Lessons learned from teaching middle school in the Bronx. An eye-opening look at what really goes on from an author prepared to admit his own foibles along the way.
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