Returning with the third instalment of our Making HEADway series, Bridging the Gaps in Remote Learning, we bring together a new panel of experts to examine how schools have adapted to remote learning during the pandemic. In the first of three parts, we heard from three educators from Southeast Asia to discover how, through strong community partnerships, they have enabled their students to continue their education despite trying circumstances. The conversation was moderated by Dr Carmela C. Oracion, Director of the Ateneo Centre for Educational Development in the Philippines.
As remote and hybrid learning continue to be the new normal in education, our speakers highlighted the importance of engaging with a wide network of community partners to obtain the necessary infrastructure and other forms of support. Mr Oscar Carascalao, a teacher at SMA Pradita Dirgantara in Indonesia, shared how, by partnering with other organisations – including the Indonesian Air Force – his school was able to provide digital devices and internet connectivity for its students across Indonesia, including those living in remote areas. Dr Nguyen Thi Thu Trang, Director of the STEM Education Centre of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Education in Vietnam showed the other side of the story and shared how her centre, as the community partner, innovated take-home toolkits to bring hands-on STEM experimental learning into students’ households. Using recycled and accessible materials found in the house, the kits and tutorials made hands-on experimental learning in STEM accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Centre is currently in discussions with STEM material and product companies to produce such toolkits on a large scale.
Psychosocial support for students, their families and school staff is also key in ensuring that minimal learning is lost during this time. For Mr Eddie A. Alarte, Principal IV of Polo National High School in the Philippines, ensuring the mental well-being of students and staff has proved essential in continuing remote learning. Through Project PASSION, school counsellors and class advisors make home visits to understand the needs of struggling students, and advise parents on how to best support their child’s learning and mental well-being. The school has also worked with the local police to ensure students remain in a safe environment whilst learning from home, and are free from bullying and violence outside the school compound.
Finally, Dr Nguyen emphasised the need for students and the wider community to be flexible and embrace different benchmarks for success, during these challenging and unprecedented times. No longer can we describe success as simply obtaining high scores or a degree from a prestigious university; she encouraged parents and teachers to broaden their definition of success for youth, and for youth themselves to consider what is critical in moving forward resiliently into the future.
Concluding the session, Dr Oracion succinctly captured the speakers’ suggestions for moving forward with 3E’s: Embrace, Empower, and leading by Example. Mr Alarte aptly highlighted the need for teachers to embrace technology and ICT upskilling as part of the new normal, in a world where digital connectivity is already an intrinsic part of everyday life. On a similar note, Mr Carascalao reiterated the importance of empowering staff to embrace unfamiliar technologies and teaching modalities, and providing support for those who are resistant to such changes. Dr Nguyen brought in a final perspective of how modelling change and leading by example furthers staff receptivity to innovating and adapting in the new normal.
In this session, we learned how the whole community comes together in shaping a child’s learning and development. Community partnerships are therefore essential in ensuring the success of students’ continued learning during the pandemic. However, as remote and hybrid learning continue to be the new normal, how are teachers and schools building their digital teaching competencies?
Next week, we will explore how educators can use free and readily available tools to complement online teaching. Join us for the second session, Using Digital Tools, on 24 June, 3 – 4.30pm (GMT+8).