WE ARE a little over one month before the end of 2020 and, apparently, there is no sign that things will normalize sooner than we want it. At the onset of the pandemic, many called me a pessimist. But I’d stand by my conviction that though eventually, things will turn out fine, we should also be realistic in reading the signs of the times. Actually, my alleged pessimism has been more of a “realism” that given our limitations, we can hardly go back to the pre-pandemic world soon. And though “hope springs eternal,” still, it would be good to factor in some facts in our decision making.
By now, schools should not condition themselves that the incoming academic year 2021-2022 will be a return to the old set-up. I’d dare forecast that either it will be another year of the same online set-up or an adaptation – an improvement of what has been rightly called “the new normal.” It is not a question of whether we like this or not. On the contrary, it is a question of what else are we capable of making the most of what we have.
It is important that we start getting more conscious of all the challenges ahead. Another year of a rollercoaster ride in an unstable socioeconomic setup will have implications on manpower or labor force in the academe.
I am still in the position that schools are essential to the country’s overall life despite it not being classified as an essential service. True that the modules were not perfect and that there were many glitches that had to be encountered along the way. However, the whole balance sheet is better read as one where a surviving educational system is still better than a literally “class-less society.” An academic freeze is an option that is easy to romanticize, but let’s admit it, the effects of such are too costly that we cannot afford to take the risk.
But let us grant the wish of those who are hopeful. Let’s say that we will resume physical classes. Apparently, this will require a number of preparations that must not be disregarded, otherwise, we will experience stress and fatigue by repeated lockdowns. Other schools may have to plan for their re-engineering preparations. The need to maintain the two-meter physical distancing, one-way entry points and isolation rooms in the clinics must be part of the regular planning for next school year. Contact tracing forms and other supporting mechanisms that would allow the efficient handling of positive cases must be studied thoroughly. Collaboration between parents and school administrators is important. Both must be transparent in the declaration of travel history and health information. Of course, this goes with the presumption that essential provisions of the data privacy law are held constant and observed.
At the curricular level, schools should again look into the relevance of their course content. Are we teaching ideas and skills that are needed by our pupils and students for the future? We are not just talking about a post-pandemic world but one that will have to face even more serious pandemics. We should learn from history, our greatest teacher, which reminds us that it would only be a matter of time when after solving a long-running problem--a new one would emerge.