Ever since COVID-19 forced colleges and universities to fully commit to online modes of learning, students have faced the repercussions of shifting to a new mode of education in the middle of a major multi-sectoral threat. While they worry about their futures, they are also left with little room to address the more pressing concerns of the present. As a result, students have mobilized online pleas to #EndTheSemNow and urged their respective schools to resort to mass promotion of the students during a time when the country is at its early stages of handling the virus outbreak.
We held a Facebook Live session with four students from different colleges and universities to discuss the current setup of Philippines’ higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the most common themes that popped up during the online forum.
Not all students have access to a stable Internet connection.
The digital era makes it easier for people to access information and connect with one another—but it’s important to note that this is not the case for everyone. Plenty of students cannot easily get their hands on online resources for reasons like financial constraints and weak connectivity in the area where they live. To add, Raymond Cayabyab from University of the East says, “How can we depend on such online platforms if, [in] the Philippines, very weak ang internet connection natin? You’ll need a PC and a stable internet connection. Yung online classes kasi, hindi pa fully introduced sa lahat ng schools.”
We cannot give a solution to a national problem by selectively focusing on a certain demographic’s situation and assuming it will apply to all. In the Philippines, internet connection is a luxury not everyone can afford, even more so during a pandemic.
Should online classes continue, Angelica Magistrado from Mapua University believes that adjustments to the current setup need to be made. “Ang nakikita ko lang na solution for this kind of setup is yung self-paced learning,” she shares. “All lecture materials are accessible sa lahat and any time puwede mo siya ma-access.”
Students’ attention are divided and priorities are being skewed.
In school, these 16 to 20-somethings’ primary role is to simply be students. At home, where they are currently staying put due to the lockdown, they take on more roles they can’t just shrug off just because classes have temporarily moved in to their homes, too.
While the semester has ended for her school, Mavy Medrano of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines still support the call to end the semester early for other universities. “What if yung student, breadwinner pala siya ng family?” Mavy points out. “So instead na inaalagan niya yung pamilya niya, iisipin pa niya yung requirements niya, yung mga discussions niya, plus yung mental health niya yung emotional health niya. So we really support that call na, let’s end the semester and let’s focus on the health of the students and the people.”
We’re in the middle of a pandemic.
In case you aren’t aware yet, a pandemic basically means an outbreak on a global scale. We’re not the only ones currently faced with a fight against an unprecedented, all-pervasive threat. Far richer countries are also straining their national resources to overcome the pandemic. Basically, this just shows that our current situation is not normal.
Given this, students cannot just shift to online learning and be expected to deliver the same amount and quality of output the way they would back when things were still normal. Kenneth Jose from University of the Philippines best said it, “[What the students demand] is reflective of the social conditions we have right now. Kasi we can’t go back to normal. It’s not business as usual. We can’t expect our students to deliver the same way that they used to in a normal setting.”
If you missed it, watch the entire Facebook Live again here:
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