Academe in the New Normal

By Mikee Canaman

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire world to a halt. Travel, lodging, entertainment, energy, and automotive were among the hardest hit sectors, with education being among them as well. As schools closed operations, students and teachers are now struggling with trying to cope with an uncertain future and a ‘new normal’.

In the Philippines, that means a new way of bringing education within reach to as many students as possible. But with over 27 million learners (as of 2019 statistics), this seems like a feat in itself. What are some of the government’s plans to manage current and future challenges? What will the educational landscape look like? What can parents expect from the academe in this ‘new normal’?

Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones together with the IATF has already approved the opening of classes on August 24, 2020. Schools having difficulty following this schedule can opt to open in September instead. Physical classes are allowed only for areas deemed low-risk. For the most part, adoption of flexible or distance learning as well as blended learning shall be implemented.

This requires students to have equipment such as a laptop, desktop computer, smartphone, or tablet. Access to mobile data and a stable internet connection is also a must. Ideally, there should be a quiet, well-lit, and well-ventilated area for proper learning. Parents and guardians are expected to assist during lessons, too. Students will use DepEd Commons, a free online education platform developed by the government agency to support alternative modes of learning.

But what about students with no access to technology, or are only borrowing gadgets from others?

DepEd suggests delivery or pick-up of printed modules. Lessons will also be transmitted via radio and television. Last May, DepEd said that Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar had offered government-run television and radio stations as platforms for delivering lessons during the pandemic. During a virtual briefing, DepEd said that radio-based instruction will use the self-learning modules or the printed learning materials, which will be converted into radio script.

While distance learning may seem good on paper, it’s not without its problems. In a survey conducted by the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), it was found that 72% or 1,748 of respondents said they had difficulty understanding lessons from online classes. Meanwhile, 67% or 1,567 struggled due to loss of internet or lack of a stable connection. Other obstacles include large volume of internet-intensive tasks (64%), strict guidelines such as attendance (43%), and lack of gadgets (22%).

Schools and students will undoubtedly face losses if education isn’t continued. However, resuming physically would definitely mean an increase in positive cases. Based on a study, those between 0-19 years of age usually interact with the elderly, a vulnerable demographic.  But that’s not to say that there’s absolutely no chance of going back to face-to-face classes.

In China, for example, they are able to resume regular classes for select areas provided that safety measures (i.e. constant checking of temperature) are observed. In Taiwan, schools are implementing plastic dividers for desks. And in Israel, there are only two to three days for classes, with only 20 students per classroom. This confirms that going back to school is a real possibility, especially if social distancing protocols are put into practice.

To date though, online learning is still the best way to keep students and teachers safe. But it shouldn’t be employed haphazardly. Be sure to note elements such as creativity and engagement, distance learning requirements (e.g. access to Zoom, Asana, etc.), real-time collaboration (Google Docs), and observing a healthy schedule.

If you’re an educator, you need to equip yourself with the right information to make better decisions for your school, students, and staff. Remember: these changes are not just here because of the pandemic – it’s likely to last for years to come.

In this regard, FutureSmart Global Academy presents its New Normal Series – Webinar and Classroom Trainings for Small Businesses and the Academe. This 8-hour training class for senior and highschool teachers will feature resource persons Dr. Ma. Cecilia Alimen, Prof. Jigger Latoza, and Dr. Nora Legaspi. It aims to help educators gain proper insights for healthy and effective learning in the Philippines.

For questions and clarifications, you may contact Ms. Thania Blancaflor at +639152850408 or send an email at Please visit FutureSmart on their official Facebook page, or on their website:

Mikee Canaman is the Senior Manager of FutureSmart, an innovation firm committed to provide data-driven strategies and breakthrough technologies for organizations – private or government-led, to sustain relevance for the future. She is also the Vice Curator of the Iloilo Hub, part of the Global Shapers Community — an initiative of the World Economic Forum, shaping impact in innovation, education, and tourism.