Online news sites spotlight hardships in remote learning

CHEERS TO and Rappler for their in-depth reports which examined the glaring problems in the online reopening of schools this month. 

Some teachers called out the Department of Education’s (DepEd) lack of preparedness for the start of the school year on September 13 and flagged as well the deepening crisis in Philippine education.

Most media reports did little more than record criticisms from various quarters. In contrast, reports from the two online news sites surfaced issues in the remote learning setup, presenting expert views and personal stories that more connected the public to the plight of teachers and students.  

In a two-part series published consecutively from September 13 to 14, put a human face on the crisis, underscoring the difficulties faced by teachers and students.  

The story of Sara, a 51-year old teacher from Zamboanga del Sur helped illustrate the condition of public school mentors as “overworked and underpaid.” She told about how she shelled out thousands of pesos from her own pocket just to prepare modules and turned her bedroom into a workshop for her teaching, storing piles of paper and records. Citing a survey from last July, the report made real the experience of “intense workload” for the majority of teachers. 

Holding the government to account, reporter Meg Adonis also recalled DepEd’s announcement in July that it would distribute a million sim cards for teachers; but she found that less than 300,000 have been distributed. The report pointed out that behind DepEd’s declaration that remote learning has been a “success,” “public school teachers were crying for help.” 

The second part of the series brought to light the difficulties of parents who have to help out in teaching their children. presented a mother who found herself unable to guide her child because she herself could not understand the lesson. The report noted that virtual lessons simply cannot take the place of the interaction between students and teachers in physical classrooms where questions are immediately addressed. Modules for online learning allow only a limited time for clarifications, which is often not enough for students.

Rappler, for its part, published a Newsbreak report that focused on the need for government to provide digital gadget support to indigent families. It cited a survey which showed that very few families received assistance to enable their students to access remote or distance learning, especially in regions outside Metro Manila. The report used a pie graph from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) showing that in the provinces, only one in 10 teachers said that students would be provided gadgets. 

The rest of the world has been able to return to face-to-face classes. Other countries have shown that schools can reopen without the risk of COVID-19 infections. As the country remains a “hot spot” despite continuous lockdowns, schools must work out the problems involved in distance or remote learning. So far, the government has not given the kind of attention demanded by the deepening crisis in education. 

Journalists can continue to spotlight this crisis and highlight the long-term impact of this failure and possibly identify the interventions that can help teachers and students recover from this deep and dark period of lost learning.