PIERCE MANLANGIT, ALYSSA MELODY PAGLUMOTAN, and SHANE CARMIE SAPERA Published on October 5, 2020
Online learning is not the only type of distance learning. While the COVID-19 pandemic sent educational institutions scrambling to move classes online, many forget that there are other modes for distance learning.
For instance, the Department of Education (DepEd) developed TV/radio-based instruction methods to utilize existing technologies that reach rural areas. However, the most popular mode of distance learning under consideration is modular learning.
Modular learning is a form of distance learning that uses Self-Learning Modules (SLM) based on the most essential learning competencies (MELCS) provided by DepEd. The modules include sections on motivation and assessment that serve as a complete guide of both teachers’ and students’ desired competencies. Teachers will monitor the learners’ progress through home visits (following social distancing protocols) and feedback mechanisms, and guide those who need special attention.
Based on data gathered via DepEd’s National Learner Enrolment and Survey Forms (LESFs), 8.8 million out of the 22.2 million enrollees (39.6% of total respondents) preferred modular distance learning for the upcoming school year. Meanwhile, 3.9 million enrollees (17.6%) were partial to blended learning (which uses a combination of different modalities), 3.8 million (17.1%) preferred online learning, and 1.4 million and 900,000 enrollees preferred TV-based and radio-based learning, respectively.
In a public secondary school in San Carlos City, Pangasinan, modular learning also emerged as the most preferred learning mode. According to their local LESFs, learners cited the lack of available gadgets and internet connection as the main reasons why they preferred modular learning over online learning.
Figure 1. Preferred distance learning modality in a public secondary high school in San Carlos, Pangasinan,
based on their LESF results. Majority of students (36.7%) prefer modular learning, reflecting nationwide surveys. (Click here for the full version of the infographic.)
The modular approach situates Filipino students to learn in the comfort of their homes. Limited contact with teachers will place parents or guardians as the learners’ model or the “More Knowledgeable Other” (MKO).
Psychologist Lev Vygotsky defines an MKO as “someone who has a better understanding or higher ability level than the learner, concerning a particular task, process, or concept.” Vygotsky proposed that human learning is a social process. A learner may or may not learn alone, but will learn better with an MKO. But what does it take to be an MKO?
Shiela Calimlim, a 36-year-old housewife and mother of Kris, an incoming Grade 12 student in a public school in Pangasinan, has her own understanding of her role in modular learning. “I will do my best to help in her studies. I am willing to learn her lessons, be strict when it comes to her assignments and schedules. I will try my best, because I believe that parents are the child’s first teacher,” she says.
Figure 2. Students in a public secondary school in San Carlos City, Pangasinan cited the
lack of available gadgets and insufficient data allowance are the main drivers for modular learning. (Click here for the full version of the infographic.)
But contrary to this popular belief on modular learning, parents are not replacements of teachers.
“Parents are partners of teachers in education. They are ‘home facilitators,’ the ‘tagapagdaloy‘ (channel), but they will not teach the subject matter. It is the teacher’s duty to teach,” clarifies Dr. Lourdes Servito, Schools Division Superintendent of San Carlos City, Pangasinan.
For Dr. Servito, the parents’ primary role in modular learning is to establish a connection and guide the child. As MKOs, parents or guardians should:
(1) be responsible for interacting with teachers, barangay representatives, and other stakeholders to acquire the various materials and resources needed by the learner (i.e., modules or textbooks);
(2) regularly check the child’s workweek plan and make sure that the learner sticks to their schedule;
(3) prepare a conducive learning study space for the learner; and
(4) give appropriate praises, encouragement, and rewards to heighten their child’s motivation to learn.
Figure 3. Parents and guardians need to take on different roles to deliver offline modular learning effectively.
(Click here for the full version of the infographic.)
Parents and guardians will face various challenges in fulfilling their roles as MKOs. The first challenge lies in the fact that parents and guardians have varying skills, knowledge, and qualifications. At Kris’ school, 50% are high school graduates, and only one-fifth of the total parent population finished college. While eight out of ten (90.3%, 10 years old and over) Filipino adults are literate enough to be functional to the community, it does not mean they are already qualified to teach. To ensure the content’s uniformity, equality, and quality, teachers should deliver while aided by parents.
Existing research also shows the interconnectedness of parents’ educational level and their income. Educated parents earn more, and can escape poverty and benefit from a better quality of life. Furthermore, parents’ educational attainment can heighten their feelings of competence and confidence in guiding their children’s education. It manifests in different ways, such as being more proactive in checking their child’s performance through parents-teachers association (PTA) meetings, providing their child’s educational necessities, and other parental-educational duties.
Figure 4. Most parents (56.94%) in a public secondary school in San Carlos City, Pangasinan are high school graduates. Only 17.12% are college graduates.
(Click here for the full version of the infographic.)
Another challenge pertains to children’s ability to learn by imitation. In his Social Learning Theory, behaviorist Albert Bandura says that learners learn by imitation, observation, and modeling. With parents as the primary models of learners, their attitudes, specific beliefs, thoughts, and feelings—cognitive biases—may affect each learner’s learning process. It may be intentionally or unintentionally shown or taught by the MKOs, depending on their understanding of a particular lesson or subject matter. One instance can be when a creationist parent (a parent who religiously believes that all things originated from divine creation) is against their child learning a science lesson on evolution.
The final challenge of learning falls under children having preferred MKOs. They choose who will assist them with their lessons and assignments, depending on their attachment with that MKO. Some children like to be taught by their mother or father, or sometimes by their older siblings. Learners learn better when there is a suitable and safe space for learning. This conducive space is not limited to a physical one; the MKO must give a warm atmosphere for the learner to love learning even at home.
All these are the challenges posed by the differences of MKOs in terms of expertise, educational attainment, cognitive biases, and even emotional connection to the learner.
With the resumption of classes on October 5, Ms. Rita Atienza, director of the Ateneo Teacher Center, cited solutions and recommendations for this new learning system.
First, she hopes the crisis will bring forth change from the traditions of the old education system. The current systems in place are overly focused on delivering a lot of content. It leads to focusing on the minute details rather than the big picture concepts. Atienza explains, “We are always concerned with the correct answer. We need to move into higher-order thinking.”
Instead, basic literacy must receive more attention as an essential competency. “Many of our children cannot read well even if they are Grade 5. This is the biggest stumbling block. Therefore, there’s room to decongest further,” she says.
Second, identifying the MKO in the household and clarifying their roles and responsibilities will be crucial to effective guidance. Doing so will help clear misconceptions and address certain cases such as parents’ unavailability due to work. Atienza recommends giving parents guidance on monthly material.
Dr. Servito echoed the same sentiments with the schools holding parents’ orientation to educate them on the dos and don’ts, as well as the whole process flow of delivering the module, from acquisition to submission.
Third, the responsibility given to the MKOs should not be on the content. Instead, Atienza says, “Rely on the MKOs for teaching students things like time management, study skills, what to do if the student doesn’t know what to do.” The MKO doesn’t have to be very educated, but it can still be helpful.
If possible, MKOs can be given training in other ways. They could still guide students who need clarification on a particular module material.
Lastly, aside from the learning content, we should strive to cultivate independent student learning. She suggested that schools can allot the first week of the school to teach students how to navigate the learning module. “Yung objectives, may gagawin ba kayo dyan? Babasahin lang yung objectives, wala pang gagawin diyan“ she cites an example.
Instead of scaring students at the sight of something unfamiliar with the module, they should be guided in understanding what the learning module is all about. For MKOs, asking them their weak points in subjects (such as math and science) and finding ways for them to collaborate with other MKOs who are good at that subject and for teachers to explain to them how to deliver it.
Figure 5. Riccie Sumogat, a Grade 12 ICT Student in Pangasinan, illustrates his interpretation of education in the new normal with online and modular learning as the leading distant delivery mode.
“If [parents and teachers] are one in the purpose that the child should learn and should learn excellently, then we have to work together and fulfill our different roles,” Dr. Servito says.
Dr. Servito recommends cooperation of DepEd among stakeholders from all sectors, from the LGUs to the barangays and PTA councils. “Collaboration is one BIG C in the 21st Century Skills, together with Communication,” she excitedly noted. She mentions a working program in Region 1, where “teacher tutors” living in their community will teach around 10 learners from the same community, especially those who need special attention. For the new normal, she believes that this will generate more jobs, and will be an opportunity to give more attention to learners.
Finland, known for its quality education system, also implemented this work-from-home strategy. Other countries, such as China and Italy, also address parents’ readiness in children’s education by offering online services to support the parents. Meanwhile, educators in Latvia and Guatemala provide the parents teaching guidelines, guidebooks, and learning materials for offline learning.
According to Atienza, the MKO’s are not just found within the family. They can also be community members such as retired teachers, the elderly, and recently-unemployed professionals.
She commends the work DepEd has put into preparing for this school year: trying to reduce their content, putting resources in the learning commons, and equipping teachers for module deployment. “It is great that there is a coordinated response,” she says.
It takes a village to raise a child. Stronger communities are needed more than ever, especially in this pandemic. A child’s education is not merely the teachers’ or the school’s responsibility, but also the community’s. Despite Aling Nena’s doubts about her child’s MKO, she vows to make herself ready, devoting time to improve her knowledge through reading books and utilizing the Internet. Her daughter Kris appreciates her efforts. “Because of the years that have passed, she may have forgotten most of the lessons, but she is willing to learn with me.”—MF
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