When Taal Vocano erupted last January 12 causing the cancellation of our Junior Student Convention in Tagatay, we never thought that that was just the beginning of something bigger that would affect the activities of School of Tomorrow® Philippines and the operation of schools using our system of education.
The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, now labeled as COVID-19, took the world by surprise. With the first confirmed case in the Philippines, reported on January 30, School of Tomorrow® immediately went into a lookout mode on the progress of the spread of the virus both globally and locally. We knew that the situation was not something we could simply dismiss since we are dealing mainly with children and teenagers.
On February 5, while the Davao JSC was in progress, we announced the cancellation of the three remaining JSCs. We understand the frustration felt by many and, at the same time, we are very thankful for the mostly positive response to the decision we made. We assure you that it was an informed decision and not one that was made out of fear or panic. We took every possible scenario into consideration. We are sorry for the economic losses experienced by those affected and the pain felt by our little ones. Decisions – hard decisions – must be made in times like this.
We live in a volatile time as COVID-19 continues to spread across the continents. It is our prayer that this pandemic will soon end. There has already been widespread suffering, death, panic, and fear, especially among countries gravely affected like China, Italy, and South Korea. The Philippines is on the watchlist as we have seen a sudden spike in confirmed cases.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 922 last March 9 declaring a state of public health emergency in the country due to the COVID-19 threat. Classes in all levels were suspended in Metro Manila for one week to make certain that schools, both public and private, go through intensive disinfection and sanitation activities. The Department of Education issued “social distancing measures” to prevent the spread of the virus among students. There is no assurance that regular classes will resume. And there is a possibility of class suspensions in other regions, cities, and municipalities. In fact, some local governments outside Metro Manila have already imposed class suspensions.
In view of all these, how is School of Tomorrow® Philippines responding?
In the shadow of a dark cloud hanging over our country, we do see a silver lining. We are reminded of the verse in Isaiah 60:1-2 –
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.”
School of Tomorrow® Philippines is blessed in the light of the uniqueness of our system:
- Self-Learning Materials
By the grace of God, we have a system of education that will ensure continuous learning in the midst of class suspensions and social distancing measures. The individualized and self-learning PACEs of School of Tomorrow®, or ACE® globally, allow each student to work at home under the guidance of parents and through remote communication with Learning Center Supervisors and Monitors.
- The Small Teacher-Student Ratio
The small ratio of the students to a teacher allows easier monitoring of student progress. The flexibility of the system allows the Supervisors and Monitors, in coordination with the school administration, to employ ways to continue working with students in extreme cases like class suspensions. With a small number of students, the teachers are able to effectively communicate with parents.
- Advantage of Small Schools
The bigger schools using the SOT® materials are still small compared to the commonly accepted school population. Conventional schools are usually considered small if they have 500 students. Our schools are much smaller than that. However, bigness or smallness is never a determinant of quality. The unique procedures of the SOT® system provide for maximum learning and mastery of the lessons.
The greatest advantage of small schools is the efficiency of communication with parents and students and the flexibility of activities in cases of class suspensions. Coordination is easier and when there is a need to schedule special meetings with clusters of students, the process is simpler. In an eventuality when students really need to meet with teachers, mobilization does not involve hundreds or thousands of students.
- Self-Learning Materials
What about in case of prolonged suspension?
The truth is we do not know until when classes will be suspended in Metro Manila and other areas. All will depend, God forbid, on the increase of local transmission of the virus in the country.
In areas where classes are suspended for an extended period, we recommend the following as Alternate Delivery Mode of our Learning Center procedures:
- Students in the Learning Center be divided among the staff – Supervisors and Monitors.
- In areas with internet connection, it is recommended that teachers work from home in the same way that students study at home. Supervisors and Monitors bring home the Score Keys and allow students to send their completed pages for remote Scoring – either by sending pictures or through video chat. Teachers will do the scoring and then inform the students of the items they need to correct – do not show or send pictures of the Score Keys! A schedule may be arranged so that video chatting is distributed throughout the day. A class suspensions is not a declaration of holiday – work must be done. Maximize the use of gadgets for learning experience.
- In areas with no internet connection, Supervisors and Monitors may schedule short meetings with students by clusters for scoring and rescoring. Schedule should be arranged ahead of time so that a very limited number of students come at certain slots. Remember, that short meetings are not classes. However, preventive measures should have been done like disinfection and sanitation of church/school premises and social distancing should be strictly observed.
A Call to Prayer
While we praise the Lord that our students can continue their education in the middle of the health emergency crisis brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak, we cannot let our guards down. Let us continue to take all the practical precautionary measures recommended by health officials and the Department of Education. Let us coordinate with our local government units on what we need to do in our respective communities to help contain the local transmission of the virus. Let us be wise. Take an active part in protecting ourselves, our families, our schools, and our communities.
Above all, let us be united in prayer. This is not just a physical war. This is a spiritual war. And we have prayer as our greatest weapon knowing that we have a God who listens to our prayers. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says –
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”