In one of Education Secretary Leonor Briones’ interviews, she pointed out how old our country’s education system is. From its introduction in the 1940s, it has basically remained unchanged until the recent introduction of the K-12 curriculum.
The current COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our healthcare, economy, and our education systems. Now we begin to question what needs to be changed in the way we do things, especially for our more than 80-year old education system in order for us to move forward. Aside from restoring normal school operations, we are now also looking at how we can resolve age-old concerns such as improving the quality of and widening the access to education.
According to Bridget Long, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, among the lessons learned by educators during the pandemic is that the one-size-fits-all approach to education does not work anymore. We finally recognize the reality that student needs vary because of the pandemic and it opened us to consider novel teaching and learning methods that may be more beneficial to both educators and students even beyond the pandemic.
Here are some of the emerging teaching or learning methods that experts believe would transform education even after the pandemic:
The K-12 curriculum introduced a more focused approach to learning through its academic tracks. Students can choose their electives that will make them especially equipped to pursue a certain discipline or field.
With the pandemic, educators and learning experts had the chance to reevaluate what our priorities should be in educating our young and to take a step further in making the education system more focused by decluttering the curriculum. With a more focused curriculum, learners can dedicate their time and resources to knowledge and skills that they believe would be more worthwhile for them.
Focused learning takes into account the reality that students face other concerns during the pandemic. They have less time and even less resources to engage in extensive academic activities. By limiting the subjects they take to those essential to their chosen academic or career track, learners and educators can better manage the limited resources available to them.
Through focused learning, learners, educators, and industries can easily match knowledge and skills with the existing needs of the market. Those who wish to pursue entrepreneurship or employment after senior high school may do so with the assumption that they already gained the necessary knowledge and skills to engage in a specific discipline or trade.
As we look into a more fast-paced future with priority on managing resources that gets more scarce by the day, having a more straightforward education seems more responsive to the reality of our learners.
Individualized learning may be considered as a combined application of several principles including adaptive and focused learning. It is a method of teaching in which the method of teaching, technology employed, content, and pace of learning are all determined based on the capacity of each learner.
In countries like the United States and Canada, schools are implementing the individualized learning model as a solution to the growing class sizes and fewer resources to support education.
In the Philippines, individualized learning is seen as an effective way to address the challenges faced by learners, educators, and parents during the pandemic. iACADEMY, known as one of the most progressive and innovative schools in the country, wants to mainstream individualized learning in Senior High School through its Home School Program called DRIVE or Design for Remote, Individualized Versatile Education program.
According to iACADEMY President and CEO Vanessa Tanco, DRIVE combines principles of individualized learning with the strengths of the K-12 curriculum. As DRIVE is completely asynchronous, learners do not have to worry about the usual concerns of commutes to school, unguided learning, and heavy-loaded academic activities and requirements.
“Being primarily learner-controlled, DRIVE allows for more flexibility in the pace of instruction and measurement of learning proficiency for learners. However, students under the program may still reach out to their subject teachers and success coaches for guidance and for mentoring,” she said.
Tech-supported and adaptive learning
Technology is already being used in support of traditional education methods. Most teachers rely on tech for their research and to make their classes much more engaging. However, tech has much more to offer in improving education. With the wide applications of big data, user experience, and artificial intelligence, students and teachers can benefit more from the full integration of tech into teaching and learning.
Aside from allowing for access to education in the remote setting, the pandemic allowed more educators to look into other ways technology can improve our ways of teaching and learning. Among the seen strengths of tech-supported education is that it has more flexibility to support adaptive learning.
According to Zachary Pardos, assistant professor at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education and the School of Information, adaptive learning allows for immediate assessment of a student’s strengths and weaknesses and for the delivery of appropriate individual instruction based on such assessment. The benefit of adaptive learning is that students do not automatically advance to the next lesson until he or she is aptly prepared and capable. The content and pace of each lesson can be adjusted based on the capacity and competency of each student.
While technologies that may support adaptive learning are yet to be developed in the Philippines, the principles of adaptive learning are now being implemented by some progressive and innovative schools.
With the continuous emergence of new coronavirus strains, reverting to the usual face-to-face classroom instruction may take a long while. Experts see that the alternative learning methods introduced during this pandemic may be more responsive to the current and emerging needs of our learners.
Traditional learning methods may have alienated some learners due to their huge demand for time and resources. With alternative learning methods such as adaptive, focused, and individualized learning, we may open up more opportunities for more Filipinos to get the education they need in order to develop. By being accommodating to learners with peculiar learning needs, alternative learning methods may finally make the goal of leaving no child behind a reality.