Families can thrive in the age of online learning: Part I


I HAVE recently been invited by the Shepherd’s Voice Radio and TV (SVRTV), the media arm of Bro. Bo Sanchez, to give a talk in one of their classes on how to help children thrive in online learning. This is part of their Feast Conference (formerly Kerygma Conference) happening virtually from November 19 to 21, 2021.

This is very timely given that our kids have been off physical schools for close to 20 months now. Online learning has presented various challenges for us parents.  But it is also important to be aware on the long-term effects of the absence of face-to-face learning.

According to the recent report of National Economic and Development Authority, the estimated total cost of face-to-face school closure is P11 trillion in lost wages over a 40-year period. It expounds that the consequences of the lack of in-person learning include less learning, lower future income, productivity, and competitiveness. It pointed out that in the 2018 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) score, the Philippines’ average score was 350, relative to Singpore at 556 and the USA at 495. The Neda says the pandemic and school closure are exacerbating the already unequal access and lower quality of education in the Philippines.

This report excerpted an article from The Economist, which said: “Closures will hurt the youngest school children most.” It quotes Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University: “You can make up for lost maths with summer school. But you can’t easily do that with the stuff kids learn very young.” The article goes on to say: “Whereas older children can be plonked in front of a computer, younger ones learn far more when digital study is supervised by an adult…. Less well-off children everywhere are less likely to have well-educated parents who coax them to attend remote lessons and help them with their work.”

These facts are truly worrisome for any parent. It makes us question how we can keep our child from becoming a part of future statistics. In my view, the first step is to understand the bigger objective of schooling for our child to better understand how we can effectively augment our child’s needs.

The Philippine education system adopted the K to 12 program aiming to produce “individuals equipped with information, media and technology skills, learning and innovation skills, life and career skills, and the communication skills necessary to tackle the challenges, and take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century.” (Source: DepEd Order No. 21 s. 2019-Policy Guidelines on the K to 12 Basic Education Program) In short, the overall goal is to raise our kids to be holistically developed with 21st century learner skills.

During these past year of working with schools and parents, I have discovered that many parents are not fully aware of 21st Century Learning. I have continuously adopted this way of learning by teaching my child at home to augment what the school provides, yielding good results especially in this pandemic. So, I committed myself to be even a stronger advocate on this. 

I personally use Hirsh-Pasek’s 6C’s of 21st Century Learning as my quick guide- Content, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Creative Innovation and Confidence. If you look closely at each skill, Content and Critical Thinking would be the skills largely provided by schools. More time at home provides the opportunity for parents to expose kids to these skills.

Here are some ways to develop these skills at home:

CONTENT. Observe or have a conversation with your child on which subjects or topics they find difficult for that week. Try to research online learning videos that may help explain these topics better. I leverage Khanacademy.org a lot for this. For my son, I noticed his composition for both Filipino and Mandarin could be improved. We have a deal that he would write three sentences in Filipino and Mandarin in addition every day and send this to me. We also made it a point to speak to him more often in these two languages. If you already know certain subjects that your child might face difficulty in the coming school year, it would be best to get a tutor for advanced instructions.

CRITICAL THINKING. Math and other logic problems in school build this. When your kids have a homework item they need help on, start with asking how they plan to solve the problem. Listen, then suggest going back to the rule of the problem.  See if he understands it. After he understands the rule, then proceed to solving the problem together. Then let them do it one more time on their own. Then you can look for other similar questions online to let them practice. Many of these have answer keys.

Games and puzzles are good for this. I actually bring a Science book and do trivias with my kids in the pool. You can even do this to test them for quizzes. One correct answer is a step closer to the finish line. Building Lego sets and doing science kits available in toy stores are also great for after-school and weekend activities.

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