BACOLOD

Abellanosa: Covid-19 and the rethinking of education

Fringes and frontiers

A FEW months ago, it was headlined that the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) thought of moving the laboratory subjects to the second semester of this academic year, 2020-2021. Of late, Ched issued a joint memorandum with the Department of Health (DOH), providing guidelines for a possible resumption of classes particularly for degree programs in the healthcare professions. We are waiting for the Department of Education's (DepEd’s) word on the matter. Hopefully, it will release not just a piece of paper containing outdated pronouncements.

Yet this kind of planning is not the best of what we should do. I am not saying that matters like this are not timely or relevant however our Education officials should think about the future of education in this country beyond the exercise of their technical functions.

For example, a much-needed serious effort, though challenging, is to study what degree programs are relevant in the new normal or in what we may call a post-pandemic world. Even before the pandemic, the World Economic Forum already spoke of “jobs of the future” with the implication that certain jobs may also have to die in the course of social evolution. Schools cannot just continue offering the same degree programs or courses as usual. In the new normal schools should stop thinking that things are “business as usual.”

Universities, colleges and even those offering Senior High School should ask whether their efforts are truly preparing students for a society that will have greater challenges than those that are confronted in the here and now. The demand for “speed,” for example, will surely level up. How much emphasis has been given to this in the training of students today? Or are we still debating whether the camera should be turned on or otherwise during online classes?

We cannot assume that our lessons on governance, communications, literature, marketing and even religion will still be the same or relevant in the future based on how they are conceived today. Again, I am not saying that they are not relevant but we must not deny the imperative of asking: if they are to remain relevant, then how so? Because apparently, we are living in a world that has been pushed to refashion a lot of things given the challenges not only to public health and the economy but even the very philosophical assumptions of what we call “the reality.”

On a practical note, we need to ask, should we still give students the illusion that Hotel and Restaurant Management or Tourism, and whatever other professions that are paralyzed - are people's gateway to success? Again, even before the pandemic, there has been a long-running discussion on what was perceived as a “mismatch” between the “industry and academe.”

We have been overtaken by the pandemic and such a discussion which has not yet been concluded all the more levels up to more serious layers of questions that should be answered; among others: what are the jobs that are most needed today? And if some jobs should be retained then how should training in their preparatory fields be reinvented (e.g. more ICT (information communications technology) literacy for law, medicine, and even teacher education).

Ched should move fast in reviewing the subject offerings, and DepEd should do a serious review of all its curriculum guides. The number of minor subjects should be reviewed. Should we still insist on having the same ancillary subjects like Rizal and Filipino? Depending on our convictions and location in the spectrum, apparently it is hard to give in to the position of the other.

But if we want to survive in the years to come we should start rethinking the claim that we have read enough that which we call "the reality" before us. Truth to tell no one knows the reality and whose reality anymore. We have gone past the stage of thinking outside of the box, the question now is whether, in the very first place, that box even exists.


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