The implementation of distance learning during the lockdowns has helped our youth with their studies since last year. But it also brought to light new struggles that our youth has faced in continuing their education. As school is about to start in September amidst the ongoing pandemic, students reflect on their experiences with online learning while preparing for another year of learning in quarantine.
We asked some of the SOS youth and children to share their experiences with online learning the past year.
How Far Can Learning Go
Distance learning helps students be more flexible in studying, but online classes aren’t substitutes for topics that need hands-on learning. For Aki*, an aviation student in his first year, he talked about how he can only learn so much through online lectures.
The pandemic has forced the educational system to be shrunk into laptops. Since then, teens like Aki have struggled to get the competence they need but which distance learning cannot adequately provide.
Aki finds it challenging to learn some topics because there are no laboratory classes at the moment which would have helped him in studying aviation more because it is a hands-on course. Additionally, there are no available trainings for the course due to its nature. Because of that, he studies his lessons over the break so that he won’t forget what he learned and to cope with his learning pace. However, he finds the silver lining in being able to spend more time with his SOS family and help out the other kids in the village. Aki also trains the kids in football during the summer as their head coach.
Another student, Mira*, struggled with the lack of hands-on learning needed for her course, Bachelor of Elementary Education. Learning to teach means interacting with children, an opportunity that’s very difficult to come by for the time being. Many of them including her find it hard to attend activities and programs that require them to teach children upfront. In the end, all that can be done is to submit output to compromise. The same goes for other subjects like Arts and P.E. where they would record their art pieces and sports demonstrations and send it online through platforms like Google Drive.
Distance learning has put more workload to parents who are already stressed out due to work from home arrangement. At the children’s villages, SOS parents have experienced fatigue more frequently in the past 18 months.
While these methods can overcome geographical barriers, some students simply find it easier to learn in face-to-face settings, especially in their earlier school years. Eya*, an incoming Grade 8 student, prefers face-to-face learning to modules because she finds a topic easier to understand when it is explained in person. While the modules are manageable at times, Eya finds it hard to learn from reading alone. She would sometimes work with friends in the other houses who have the same module, especially when their mother or no one else is available at the moment. The distance learning setup also gives room for self-learning because the availability of internet and computers in the village allows them to look for needed information.
Switching Setups and Choices
Their learning preferences are not the only things affected by the shift to distance learning in response to the lockdowns. Many students, both in and out of SOS, feel the weight of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. Though the children and youth in our village still receive educational support, choices still have to be made to make do with what we can get during these times. Sometimes, the choices that were made are beyond anyone’s control.
One such decision that garnered mixed feelings is having to switch from their current school to another one. Many of them can’t pick their school of choice in line with their course due to financial reasons, especially for current or incoming college students. Despite the financial challenges, the SOS staff are doing their best to ensure that they can still continue their education regardless of where they study.
Switching schools also means that they will moving to a different environment and work with a different set of classmates. Mira expressed that while she was fine with transferring schools, she still felt a little sad because she was looking forward to a fun college experience even with just online classes.
Apart from having to adjust to a different school environment, some also talk about missed opportunities. Aki talked about some having to limit their options in picking schools due to financial costs, many of which can’t pick their preferred schools. Usually, those with more highly specialized courses like him get the opportunity to stay in their current school. In cases where cost isn’t a problem, schools with many test takers sometimes take time to respond, forcing many students to pick another school so as not to be left behind in the curriculum.
Amidst all the challenges brought by the pandemic, SOS children continue to pursue their studies. Thanks to the donors who are supporting the educational needs of the children.
Distance learning only works best when students have the means and the support they need to study in this setup as seen in the past year. SOS Children’s Villages Philippines is doing its best to provide that support for our children and youth in the communities amidst the financial difficulties imposed by the pandemic. From improving our ICT facilities to finding more staff to support our youth’s education, we work to ensure that our students can continue their studies.
We at SOS believe that no student should be left behind in this pandemic. You can help us in ensuring that learning must continue amidst the pandemic. Visit sosphilippines.org/donation.