Apart from the disruption in people’s lives and basic functionalities, the indeterminacy of the battle versus COVID-19 has pushed people to create new routines and adapt new lifestyles based on the “new normal.” Unfortunately, one of the sectors greatly affected by this change and the gravity of the situation is the education sector.
As the pandemic occurred and worsened before the first quarter of the year was even concluded, it meant that it happened third-way in the semester; and for the past few days following the reported extension of lockdowns and community quarantines, the youth and the professionals in the academe is urging that no student should be left behind. As a result, the plea for “Mass Promotion” was pushed forth.
In essence, “mass promotion” demands that academic pressure should be the least priority of students during this trying time. This calls for the system to consider the state of all students after the crisis – that is, consider the condition and the circumstances of students whose families have suffered and will suffer from the aftermath of the pandemic.
Likewise, the call #NoStudentLeftBehind urges the education system to take action and execute orders that would be beneficial to all students regardless of one’s standing. The call entails that the executives of the sector should side with, and take into account, the situation of the unprivileged students; thus, the call urges the officials to end the semester and pass all students regardless of their academic and social standing.
END THE SEMESTER AND PASS ALL STUDENTS. This has been the emphasis of #MassPromotion on social media. This has been the cry of the youth as it seemingly is the most reasonable and the most humane option that would benefit the majority of the students in the academe.
The Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) has implemented and promoted this option as it “is the most humane way of dealing with student grades under circumstances where it is difficult and unfair to make a judgment of failure considering that they have not been given the benefit of the full semester to improve their performance.”
But while it benefits the majority, it compromises some.
This option aims to relieve the students from the stress and anxiety triggered by the remaining workload for the semester. It would relieve them of the burden of continuing classes amid the global health crisis and it would allow them to focus more on their health and on coping with the backlashes and the aftermath of the enhanced community quarantine and the pandemic in general. This option literally promotes and takes into consideration the situation of the masses.
Albeit it is an upstanding choice, some courses and fields cannot afford to skip the semester as some subjects undertaken at present are essential and crucial prerequisites for succeeding course subjects. Courses in the sciences – such as Biology, among others – which heavily rely on lab experiments and fieldwork to move forward with their subjects are the most affected.
Because some people were not completely on-board with the idea, alternative options were proposed:
PUSH THROUGH WITH ONLINE CLASSES AND E-LEARNING. This has been the first option presented to the academe. As the society thrives in the digital age, the accessibility to mobile devices, gadgets, and the internet seems to be no problem at all. However, it is important to note that not everyone has the same set of privileges.
While others have no problem with accessibility to cellphones, laptops, computers, and the internet, this option potentially adds to the burden of some who do not have the resources or the funds to afford being in online classes – may it be on the basis of available tools or internet access.
Ultimately, this option favors the privileged.
PASS OR FAIL SYSTEM. This system implies that a student will be graded on the basis of his academic standing – in this case, based on his performance before the pandemic got out of hand.
While this may be the most ethically correct option, it proves to be disadvantageous as students are to be graded based on their performance for a third of the semester. This option proves to be unfair as students – who are relying on succeeding requirements and outputs to pull their grades enough to get a passing mark – have been deprived of the opportunity to improve their academic standing.
Other problematic aspects of this system are as follows:
- It is not guaranteed that students who receive a passing mark would be equipped with the sufficient knowledge to get them through their succeeding courses; thus, they might just end up taking supplementary classes that would, in retrospect, result in the extension of the semester.
- Students who receive a failing mark may be burdened with the possibility of extending and being delayed – something that not everyone can afford given the current socioeconomic and sociopolitical climate of the country.
Either way, as no student has the advantage here, the endgame would be the same for all.
FREEZE THE SEMESTER. Freezing the semester entails that – while no student will incur a pass or fail mark – classes, lessons, students, and the system would pick up where they left off.
This may be considered as a fairer and more feasible option for all. Yet again, there is no guarantee that everyone will have the same set of privileges and the same opportunities to be able to immediately get back on their feet. Not everyone can afford to extend, even by a mere semester or two, as it would mean additional expenses and additional burden to their families who, in retrospect, should be prioritizing getting back to their feet socioeconomically.
SHIFT THE ACADEMIC CALENDAR AND EXTEND THE SEMESTER. Most universities had undergone academic calendar shifts in the past years. However, another option laid on the table was to, once again, adjust the calendar that would pave the way for a month or two of supplementary and remedial classes that would allow students to catch up on lessons that are essential to their succeeding subjects.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) had given the academic institutions the ‘go’ signal to shift their respective calendars should it be the decision of the board. Taking a step further, they have already issued two sets of guidelines for both the old and the new academic calendars.
But, again, the result would still be the same – a possible extension for a semester or two that would be unfavorable to the less privileged.
Even with these fair, feasible, or accessible options, it does not change the fact that the academe cannot craft a one-size-fits-all solution that would encompass the needs of all students from different walks of life. At the end of the day, in spite of probable compromises, the academe would have to settle with the lesser evil among the options.
But taking everything into account, a few things can be certain:
- No matter what field one is in, it is necessary for students to have remedial classes to help them review and catch up on particular topics that would cover and that would be needed for their succeeding subjects.
- Teachers and professionals should be encouraged to provide supplementary materials, readings, and handouts that students could review and access amid the quarantine. Furthermore, they should be encouraged to keep communication lines open and accessible should their students have questions and clarifications
- Professionals in the academe should still receive sufficient subsidies and compensation as they, too, are severely affected in this chaos; and
- Institutions should refund a part of the students’ tuition fees.
Beyond ethically correct and acceptable means, compassion, empathy, understanding, and humanity should prevail in this situation.