Bong Mabilog and Alphacrest Academy in Iloilo City continued moving forward bringing better education to students under the new normal.
Teaching online may have presented some handicap yet it also offered an opportunity for the country’s educational system to develop and thrive.
“We used to think that digital technology is an enemy, but it has become our ally today, helping our children to continue learning,” said Mabilog.
Among the sectors that suffered badly from the pandemic is education. Educators, schools, and students, were not spared from the long and invisible hand of the virus. The health crisis pushed educational institution to pivot from the conventional face-to-face set-up to online classes.
The transition, however, is far from easy as shared by Ramon Patrick Mabilog, president of Alphacrest Academy Inc. in Iloilo City. Mabilog or Bong among family, friends and colleagues said that the shift presented some setbacks which made education under a new normal challenging.
Despite the challenges, Bong Mabilog displayed how Alphacrest embraced a #PadayonKita mindset or an “attitude of continuity” in Hiligaynon, to bring learning under the new normal to the next level.
Economic impact resulted to migration of students
“The effect of the virus is far-reaching,” he shared, and Mabilog crunched some stats to illustrate the situation. First, at least 24% of the students from last year’s population did not enroll in the current school year (Inquirer, 9/1/2020).
Second, 4.6 million Filipinos went jobless. The Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that unemployment rate peaked to 10% in July this year.
The impact of the pandemic on the economy manifested in the education sector by way of “massive migration of students from private to public schools,” explained Mabilog.
While the changes faced by the private sector was mainly driven by economic factors, public schools faced the same lingering problem, if not worse: the number of students per teacher or uneven ratio of classroom size per teacher.
Government’s premature announcements created uncertainty
Another impact delivered by the pandemic to the education sector were premature pronouncements by government regarding “lack of facilities and equipment for teachers and students,” noted Mabilog, and the adjustments declared by the Dept. of Education (DepEd) moving the start of the school year from August to October.
Premature pronouncements of the government which highlighted inadequate facilities suggested that students may not be enrolling for one year, eventually created uncertainty and it “weigh down on students to stop schooling for a year,” Mabilog stressed.
The situation was further aggravated after DepEd moved the opening of the current school year for kindergarten to high school from August 24 to October 5. Some private basic educational institutions proceeded holding of classes before October by adopting distance learning method.
Alphacrest transitioned using a #PadayonKita mindset
The pandemic were not all bad news for the likes of Bong Mabilog. For Alphacrest, “we view this crisis as an opportunity for our educational system to improve in the Philippines,” he said.
Mabilog observed how the pandemic stirred the education system to a new dynamism showing handicap, demands to cope, challenges to overcome, and more importantly – opportunities for growth.
“Not everybody is on the same page,” Mabilog shared as students have to adjust to online learning and teachers have to manage the new teaching set-up. Some educators have combined old and new methods of teaching as a way to cope with the demands of the new normal.
Alphacrest is not an exception. It faced the challenges by embracing the opportunity presented by the health crisis to transition to the new normal through blended learning method. It balanced modular and digital approaches, including provision for homeschooling materials.
It did not delay its opening of classes and instead proceeded head on last August by maximizing various digital tools and platforms available for learning like Google classroom, Classmarker for exam, Zoom, and Rooms by Facebook.
According to Bong Mabilog, the method may vary yet Alphacrest upheld the underlying principles that holds the real essence of teaching.
The learning process continues for Alphacrest in spite anticipated disruptions in the digital learning platform. Mabilog was mindful of lack of learning equipment, power interruptions, and low connectivity as disruptive factors to learning.
He ensured that communications system like texting between the school administration and the students are in place when digital platform fails so that students can pick up study materials and continue learning at home.
“We are taking it one step at a time. We are trying out new methods or ideas to bring in solutions to current problems,” expressed Mabilog.
The pandemic has strengthened the family bond
While the new set-up is “causing a big necessary inconvenience” described Mabilog, it strengthened families.
Some “parents are still on limbo, wondering what is really happening, while others are still battling over the idea that they attend on the needs of their children,” shared Mabilog, but “the children are happy because mom and dad are giving them the attention they have been wanting.”
“The situation today requires a strong family support to the young generation of learners,” said Mabilog and he is seeing a lot of positive changes in the family attitude towards children.
Mabilog, who is also pastor at Ikthus Church Iloilo, noted that the crisis gave parents a lot of time to get involved with their children.
“Many parents came to a realization of the lack of connection between them and their children before the pandemic,” he shared, “and the crisis are allowing them to recover from that lost time.”
Education will endure beyond the crisis
In spite of the challenges offered by the pandemic, Bong Mabilog stressed that education will remain valuable for Filipinos. “We, Filipinos, value education more than any country,” he underscored.
“We used to think that digital technology is our enemy but it has presented itself as an ally in helping our children to learn,” Mabilog pointed out.
The experience of Alphacrest under the leadership of Bong Mabilog offered a glimmer of hope that our education system can transcend the crisis and reach a better normal. It will endure with time and grow for the next level.
*The photos used in this content has secured permission from the source.