Education post COVID-19 tackled in 2021 PhilEd Conference

The 2021 Philippine Education (PhilEd) Conference hosted by the Private Education Assistance Committee was held via Whova and Facebook Live last December 1 to 4. 

With the theme “Reimagining Schools and Learning beyond COVID-19”, the conference aimed to address the relevant challenges of the Philippine educational system and the possible solutions that can be done to cope with the new normal.

Br. Armin Luistro FSC, Sen. Win Gatchalian, Rep. Roman Romulo, and Secretary Karlo Nograles were among those who convened for the event, along with other local and international educators and policymakers. 

On a local level

Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs, External Partnerships and Project Management Service Tonisito M.C. Umali Esq detailed in his opening message the current situation of students since the start of the pandemic. 

As the number of enrollees decreased over the past year, DepEd plans to focus on helping more private schools to successfully resume face-to-face classes, and hopefully replicate the success of the pilot testing of physical classes in select public schools in the country last October.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations Chairperson and Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities President Dr. Anthony Jose M. Tamayo echoed Umali’s sentiments and stressed that the succeeding months will be crucial as the country slowly eases into normalcy and as we “look at education beyond the pandemic.” 

He furthered that the establishment of laws in relation to the education sector will “strengthen complementarity between public and private schools, as well as equitable access to quality learning.”

Luistro, on the other hand, emphasized the significance of empowering teachers to address the learning challenges they encounter and discussed means to reimagine Philippine education.

Philippine Business for Education President Dr. Chito Salazar added that the Philippines has been in a “learning crisis” even before the pandemic, and that local government units should address these issues from the division level. Moreover, he remarked that the pandemic only highlighted the issues within the educational system such as the insufficiency of materials and facilities despite the increase in the allocated budget for the education sector over the years.

Meanwhile, Romulo urged the government and fellow policymakers to rely on context and findings from local research instead of from foreign studies to improve the country’s school system. “In the Philippines, it is time that we chart our own destiny, especially with respect to education. It is high time that we do our own studies,” he emphasized.

With this, Nograles ensured that the government has made continuous efforts to implement policies aimed to further the progress of the Philippine school system, citing DepEd’s continuous efforts to improve the Teacher Education Council—a group expected to craft a strategic roadmap for teacher education.

Creating a roadmap

Leaders of international higher education institutions from the United States, Vietnam, and Singapore highlighted in the conference methods that are currently being implemented in tertiary education around the world, their effects on student learning engagement, and potential initiatives to foster resilience among the academe’s stakeholders as communities prepare for a post-pandemic future.

University of Minnesota Professor Paul Glewwe explored the tendency of developed countries to perform better in educational policies and student performance in comparison to their counterparts. Reducing student-teacher ratios, setting up more schools in rural communities, and establishing student-centered remedial programs were among the research-based action items that he presented, which proved to be effective in boosting student engagement in both developed and developing countries. 

Vice Provost Dr. Hang Le of Duy Tan University introduced the concept of “educational metaverse”, wherein online education would take place in an augmented reality to mimic classroom environments more realistically while at home. Aside from strengthening financial support, she posited that to further advance digital transformation, leaders in higher educational institutions (HEIs) should consider changing the culture of HEIs and that these changes must align with the needs of its stakeholders.

“Digital transformation is not about technology, it’s about the people,” she asserted. 

Interdisciplinary and experiential learning enhance 21st century skills and educational innovation, especially when work and learning are intertwined, National University of Singapore President Prof. Tan Eng Chye pointed out. “A lot of things that you learn or one learns can become obsolete very quickly, so there’s a need to imbue a strong sense of lifelong learning,” Tan noted.

Marshall Cavendish Education Principal Consultant Dr. Charles Chew emphasized the significance of professional development for teachers to transform teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and classroom practices to enhance student achievement.

As education leaders examine student engagement and draft policies for the refinement of blended learning and preparation for the eventual resumption of classes post-pandemic, the education sector propels itself toward improved learning beyond COVID-19. 

“The multisectoral stakeholder discussions have broadened our options [toward] a brighter and more promising future,” assured Judge Benjamin Turgano (Ret.), president of the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities. 

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