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Monday, June 24, 2024

What’s up, UP?

“UP has retreated in its own shell and continued blended learning — to the detriment of its students, especially those who cannot afford laptops or tablets and high-speed internet connection”

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Two years have passed since the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down; in that time we have learned much about the virus and how best to deal with it.

For one thing, vaccines are already widely available and have protected us from the severe illness that characterized the first year of the pandemic.

Also, the virus itself has evolved and has become less potent, and while people still get infected, most cases are mild and do not need hospitalization.

As a result, according to the Department of Health (DOH) itself, even a surge would not pose a big problem because hospitals are not expected to become overwhelmed.

This is the wisdom behind the decision of the Department of Education (DepEd) to finally allow face-to-face classes in schools across the country.

We have learned to live with the virus and know how to hold these classes safely. While some are allowed to do blended learning for now, by November all schools will be required to hold in-person classes.

So what’s up with UP, then?

Of all schools in the country, it is the state university that should be leading the way in handling the virus and showing how full face-to-face classes should be done.

Instead it has retreated in its own shell and continued blended learning — to the detriment of its students, especially those who cannot afford laptops or tablets and high-speed internet connection.

That is the bottom line here: online and blended learning are anti-poor measures that only benefit the rich and leave the poor far, far behind.

With millions of families left without or with less income by the pandemic, students have been hard put to cope with learning because they had neither the gadgets nor the internet connection with which to do it.

It is true that modules were made available for students, but without instruction from an actual teacher, these were limited at best and useless at worst — especially since many parents ended up answering them for their children.

Now that the door has been opened for actual classes to be held, one would expect that UP would be at the forefront and leading the charge back to the classrooms.

It is traditional, yes, but it is also highly effective: classroom instruction is where one can get stimulated by direct discussions with teachers and fellow students.

There is no lag, no “loading,” and no need to wait for one person to finish talking before interjecting.

It is true that classroom instruction needs to be tweaked to account for new technology, but at its very heart, face-to-face classes are hard to beat when it comes to education.

UP has a lot to answer for, and Senator Pia Cayetano is making sure it is held accountable.

In fact Senator Pia, who is the chair of the subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Finance, had already hinted that the state university might not get its proposed budget of P21.8 billion in its entirety.

“You want budget?” she said, addressing UP officials. “Show me you’re making an effort to do the most basic — allow the students to have face-to-face classes. Show me you are making that effort. Because otherwise, I’ll focus my efforts where it is most appreciated.”

What’s up, UP? Do your students right — especially the poorer ones — and get them back to school.

(Arman Serrano is an educator who has mentored doctoral students in the field of communications.)

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