Jake Tse Jr. || Cartoon by: Ma. Kristine Erika Flanco
In keeping with the safety measures against the coronavirus pandemic, the 16 campuses of the Philippine Science High School System announced its plan of action for continuing with its mission of providing education humanistic in spirit, global in perspective, and patriotic in orientation. Little could it have been anticipated however, just how pushed Pisay scholars would become to go beyond the limits of their physical and mental capacities in order to cope.
In this “new normal,” the modality of learning relies mainly on distance education through digital modules, frequent online synchronous classes, and online assessments. In practice, however, this equated to an overbearing academic workload accompanied by suboptimal home environments leading many students to struggle with keeping up to the high expectations set by being a Pisay scholar.
Add to that the difficulties of relying heavily on the infamously terrible Philippine internet, and the difficulties of having counsel to support mental health due to quarantine restrictions. Not to mention the difficulties teachers face in having to educate with the entirely new virtual environment. All these led to an education set-up making students feel even more isolated and anxious, hindering their productivity and creativity.
It then came as no surprise when Pisay scholars and alumni from all over the country raised an uproar on the internet, pleading for an academic break. Through the hashtag #PisayGiveUsABreak, the students’ concerns were expressed on social media. After more than 10,000 uses of the hashtag landing it squarely on Twitter’s trending page, these pleads were answered and an academic break for one week was amended to the school calendar.
The academic break was then a crucial checkpoint for students to de-stress themselves and reconnect with reality. Students, as well as teachers, were given time for themselves to enjoy, relax, and rest in order to prepare themselves mentally and physically for upcoming school requirements. However, come the return of classes, the exhausting cycle repeated itself and the supposedly rejuvenated spirits of the Pisay community were quashed back down to a depressing square one.
As rigid as the academic calendar and curriculum is, it is then necessary for the education system to be less demanding and more considerate to reduce pressure and anxiety from students. Likewise, parents should not expect too much from their children and support them when needed. It is worth noting that aside from benefiting students, this aids teachers as well since making modules and assessments will significantly be less taxing.
Lastly, it is essential for regular counseling sessions to occur between students and teachers. Alternatively, online school community events and games can be implemented to lighten everyone’s spirits. In addition to that, everyone should be made aware of mental health problems to create a better understanding of one another.
All things considered, education under the new normal is surely challenging and difficult to adapt to. It can be a cause for mental health problems among students, but with a change in the system and cooperation, we can make online learning healthier and more effective. For online education to be truly effective, we must remember this: Education is a marathon, not a sprint. When conditions change to times, it is critical for the runners and moderators alike to pause and rest in order to cross the finish line in good shape.
For scholars and members of the PSHS-EVC community seeking support, the Guidance and Counseling Unit of the Student Services Division is offering its services through virtual consultations in either individual or group meetings which can be requested via this form:
https://forms.gle/UsAHNMCcZGGWjEbr8. They are also available for private messages and e-mails care of Sir Rogene Ramos ( facebook.com/maroongeers or email@example.com ).