Officials in the Philippines confirmed in early June 2020 that schools would not reopen until a vaccine against COVID-19 became available. This decision leaves approximately 27 million children to continue their education via the internet. Education officials worry that two months is too short a period to extend a successful distance-learning model, especially when many children lack access to computers or the internet. For younger children, this adjustment in education style arrives at a crucial period in their schooling where they start developing social skills, literacy and numeracy.
Nonetheless, aid organizations are mobilizing in response to the decision that the government of the Philippines made to not reopen schools. These organizations hope to bridge the potential gap in quality and access to quality education in the Philippines during the pandemic.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) gave $2.5 million to the government of the Philippines to help support its Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan. USAID announced on June 18, 2020, that it would be putting forward funding to secure quality education for children in the Philippines until the restoration of face-to-face classroom learning.
In partnership with the Philippines Department of Education (DepEd), USAID will equip educators with effective distance-learning materials and teaching techniques. Additionally, USAID will also direct attention to families and citizens, providing parents with home-learning activities. Media platforms in the Philippines will be working with USAID to publicize advice on the effective continuation of education during the pandemic. USAID will also help DepEd in the development of assessment tools for students so that instructors can monitor and evaluate student literacy levels before the eventual return to school.
Save the Children Philippines
Government-sanctioned aid programs are not the only organizations targeting issues associated with education. International NGOs are also rolling out plans to maintain access to education via their local chapters in the Philippines. Save the Children Philippines recently initiated Project ARAL (Access to Resources for Alternative Learning), which seeks to support families at a high risk of losing learning opportunities with the transition to online-based schooling.
Project ARAL provides materials for at-home educational programs that it caters to students by age group. The plan also uses these programs to offer “psychosocial” support and disseminate information regarding nutrition and health. The project incorporates three stages for the planning and provision of educational aid, assuring support to all beneficiaries throughout transitions in learning. This includes a relief stage (when quarantine and school closures remain in place), a transition stage (when schools stay closed, but quarantine restrictions begin to lift) and a recovery stage (when returning to normal operations).
ChildFund Philippines, a regional sector of ChildFund International, introduced a CoVLOG-19 for young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. CoVLOG-19 is a video-blog platform for young adults to express themselves and communicate with peers while maintaining distance-learning. The platform focuses specifically on engaging young adults with information regarding COVID-19: slowing the infection rate and avoiding online exploitation and abuse in this large flux of computer use. ChildFund Philippines also hopes to support education in the Philippines by supplying “home-based family activities kits,” or HFAK, which provide activities to support the continued learning of life-skills, social skills and academics in the absence of traditional schooling.
The indefinite closure of schools due to COVID-19 will inevitably continue to pose an enormous hurdle in the provision of quality education in the Philippines. However, projections determine that the materials, programs and plans that these aid organizations implemented will chip away at the challenge to further improve the status of remote learning.
– Alexandra Black