Step down, De Vera!

I am one with the call for the resignation of Prospero de Vera III, current chairman of the Commission on Higher Education.

On a webinar last May 21, he said that “flexible learning”, the very system of learning that students are currently suffering from, will “be the norm”, and that there’s “no turning back to the traditional, full-packed face-to-face classrooms.”

Let’s face it, “flexible” learning is a misnomer. The current system of education is anything but. In UPLB alone, a survey by the University Student Council revealed that 4 out of 5 students had a home unfit for “flexible” learning. From the onslaught of this tiring charade, students already knew that they were going to be left behind. Online classes and printed modules for offline students have only affirmed the exclusivity of Philippine education, which was already exclusive to begin with.

We can’t even barely call what the students are experiencing now as “learning”. Countless complaints and grievances from students all over the country reveal that they are hardly learning in the current setup, and that they are beginning to lose interest in their studies.

The Commission should be alarmed by this, considering that today’s youth will become the next professionals in the labor force. To enforce an anti-student learning setup only spells trouble not just for the youth but also the constituents they may be serving in the future, especially for those studying in fields that involve extensive knowledge and skills like health-related programs, agriculture, and the sciences.

CHED has to accept the truth that education was not designed to be this way. There are several dimensions in pedagogy and learning that cannot be acquired in front of a phone or laptop. Graduates will struggle with organizational skills they could have acquired while interacting with fellow students and orgmates. Professors would have a difficult time explaining certain, complicated concepts over a computer screen.

These, along with other pre-existing problems such the lack of gadgets and access to a decent internet connection – both of which could be offered by universities that are, mind you, under the supervision of CHED! It is quite literally cheaper for the Commission to allocate its budget on facilities and equipment that are needed by state universities all over the country, than to insist on “flexible” learning.

The gall of the CHED chairman to insist that “the situation of students and faculty members are better now than before”. And what exactly did CHED do help these students and faculty members when this mess of a learning system began? Aside from a one-time cash grant to 6,000 students under B2HELP (P5,000) and 30,000 OFW dependents under the Tabang OFW program (P30,000), CHED has done nothing else to reduce the difficulty of remote learning for college students. 36,000 beneficiaries are only a small fraction of the estimated 1.1 million college students in the Philippines.

Let’s not forget about the cases of student suicides that occurred throughout the pandemic. The “flexible” learning setup has caused nothing but despair for the students and their families who have to shoulder the costs of gadgets and efficient internet just so education may continue.

Lastly, the decision is counterintuitive. By choosing to continue the “flexible” learning setup, in a way, the Commission is undermining efforts of the people to counter the pandemic. Wasn’t the point of the pandemic response to “go back to normal”? If so, why does CHED insist on proceeding with “flexible” learning? CHED justifies that traditional face-to-face classes will put stakeholders at risk of another pandemic. Mr. de Vera, you want people to no longer risk their lives in this pandemic? Tell your boss in Malacanang to do his job.

The CHED chairman’s delusional sentiments truly reflect his incompetence, detachment, and lack of responsibility for the very students he is supposed to serve. We are sick of the remote learning setup. Mr. de Vera, if you truly care about the welfare of the students, stop dilly-dallying and step down now. [P]

Photos from CHED.gov.ph
Design by Gerard Laydia

The UPLB Perspective is accepting opinion articles that touch on relevant issues concerning news, politics, culture, and personal experiences. Send your articles or queries to opinion.uplbperspective@gmail.com

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