As the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, learning institutions are facing unprecedented challenges in enrollment turnout and learning continuity. Over 28 million learners in the country have been affected by school closures and community quarantine in an effort to contain the disease, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Given the disruptions in the conduct of learning delivery, the Department of Education (DepEd) has sought the assistance of private institutions and one of its long-time allies heeded the call. Just recently, STI Education Services Group, Inc. (STI ESG) signed a Memorandum of Agreement with DepEd to strengthen the latter’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP), a package of academic interventions that will respond to the difficulties brought about by COVID-19.
“This collaboration allows us to capacitate both learners and teachers of DepEd by providing the necessary resources, tools, and technology which is also part of fulfilling our duty to make education more accessible particularly in these trying times,” Aisa Q. Hipolito, STI ESG VP for Academics said.
Through DepEd’s Learning Continuity Plan (LCP), there will be adjustments in the basic education curriculum, which include key features of the K-12 program, alignment and delivery of learning materials, implementation of various teaching modalities, and corresponding training for teachers and parents for distance learning.
DepEd said in a statement that the LCP is its major response and commitment in ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the learners, teachers, and personnel while finding ways for education to continue amidst the health crisis for the school year 2020-2021.
Under the partnership, STI will provide DepEd, particularly in the implementation of the BE-LCP, various forms of support for free, including rendition of technical assistance, transportation service, and use of STI facilities nationwide to name a few.
Empowering teachers through technology
With the sudden shift away from physical classes, education has transformed dramatically with the distinctive rise of online learning, whereby the mode of teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Access and availability to certain learning platforms however remains a question and is considered as one of the main hurdles in distance learning. To help DepEd and their teachers address this problem, STI will make NEO Learning Management System (LMS) available to them.
Hipolito noted that a reliable and robust learning management system is a major factor for a conducive and effective distance learning. She even added that the concept of online learning is not new to STI, as the institution already implemented a blended learning mode for the past five years using NEO LMS for students and teachers to use at home. Thus, when the pandemic brought forth school closures, STI amplified its educational framework built on existing e-learning methods, while taking into consideration the students’ current learning needs.
STI will also train public school teachers who may use the learning management system to make the transition of the modality smoothly and maximize the features and efficiency of the LMS.
In addition, STI will assist DepEd in the digitization or conversion of learning contents into digital format, including giving DepEd access to and allowing use of STI’s computer laboratories across the country, which can be used to convert materials into appropriate formats, train, and receive online materials especially for DepEd teachers in localities where computer facilities are not readily available.
Tapping media for learning opportunities
In an interview with House Ways and Means Committee Chair Albay Representative Joey Salceda with Dodol B, he said that only 17% of Filipino students have internet access at home, only 3.74% have mobile phones, and about 5% of students have stable internet access at home to keep up with online learning activities.
It is for this reason that education officials are tapping into television and radio as additional means to deliver lessons especially in far-flung communities. In the 2019 study conducted by global data firm Dataxis, about 18.7 million households in the Philippines still watch television while global media intelligence firm Kantar Media’s 2019 Media Trends Study also showed that up to 52% of Filipinos still own a radio.
DepEd has already started the production of its learning contents to be televised in TV or radio using STI’s audio-visual facilities as also part of the agreement.
STI is also open to DepEd for additional partnerships, including training of teachers for online education wherein they can earn credits for Masters or Doctoral degree. Should the teachers opt to continue their studies and secure a master’s or doctoral degree, STI shall recognize the credits earned during training and assist the teachers in its online graduate school program through STI West Negros University in Bacolod.