How do you look at the COVID situation now in the Philippines with regards to Education?
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a new world full of challenges, dilemmas, as well as opportunities. From the confines of homes, teachers and administrators were put to the task of revising and adapting course syllabi and requirements as they shifted to alternative or remote teaching modalities, both synchronous and asynchronous. Where students and teachers had access to electronic devices and reliable Internet connections, learning managements systems were used. Also, teachers and students used smartphones to exchange messages, notes and materials, through text messaging, e-mail, and Facebook Messenger. Furthermore, educational institutions were involved in enhancing the capabilities and competencies of members of the academe, professional groups, and the general public by sharing their knowledge, skills and expertise on relevant topics. Training activities, mentoring sessions, and webinars were organized by various colleges and universities.
After a year of school lockdown and the shift to online learning, the full impact of this unprecedented global shift to remote learning will likely play out for years to come. On the other end, the pandemic opens a once in a lifetime opportunity, where long overdue investments in technology, teachers, and parents might happen faster and better. This is a window of opportunity to reimagine education, with a vision of how schools will be shaped in the future.
A critical first step is to improve the quality of remote learning for those students who are still learning virtually. But students will also need help to catch up losses that have already occurred. Along with offering more support for students who are behind—through high-density tutoring or more personalized mastery-based programs—students may need to spend extra time in the classroom. That could mean longer school days or vacation academies during holidays.
Future endeavors in SACI
Our Institution maybe subjected to more challenges and some of the future endeavors of SACI will be more focused and may include the following recommendations from Saavedra et al., (2020):
- Assess learning loss and monitor progress, when children return to school and during remote instruction;
- Provide remedial education and socio-emotional support to help students catch-up and ensure school retention;
- Adapting the curriculum, to prioritize foundational learning (including social-emotional learning) accounting for the lost time;
- Prepare and support the teachers, to manage burnout, improve digital skills, identify students needing support and adjust instruction to meet them where they are at;
- Prepare and support the school management, to develop and implement plans that ensure health and safety conditions for student’s return to schools and learning continuity;
- Communicate with stakeholders, to build ownership and support from parents/ caregivers, teachers and school staff for school reopening plans;
- Encourage re-enrolment, with special emphasis on at-risk of dropout populations;
- Minimize disease transmission in schools and following epidemiological guidelines for sanitation and hygiene to prevent outbreaks,
- Continue remote instruction and support learning at home for courses/subjects that can be done in distance learning utilizing a blended type of learning.
Impact on Physical Therapy Education
The impact of the pandemic on the paramedical education specifically in Physical therapy brought numerous and more challenging problems. The clinical or practice education, as well as practical skills, and clinical practice performance assessment were major challenges. Some of the challenges were scheduling and/ or teaching practical classes, managing and delivering clinical education, planning future clinical education, scheduling and/ or teaching community-based sessions which are part of program courses, students coping strategies with the situation. Further difficulties regarding assessing current competence level, assessing competence development, difficulty ensuring the integrity of the assessment process are also worthy of consideration.
The delivery of education also shifted. Some educational institutions offering physical therapy had postponed practice education until the next academic term, semester or year. Most of the schools including our institution substituted face to face practice experience with telerehabilitation or telehealth. In addition, most schools also considered another non-clinical practice learning experience that allowed the student to achieve the learning outcomes. Replacing practice education with simulation contexts and decreasing the number of hours needed for practical education were other common practice observed.
The shift from face to face learning online learning limited the Physical Therapy students in their experience in handling actual patients. However, this shift also strengthened the competency of the students to be more inclined in evidence-based practice skills, including literature retrieval and evaluation as well as their competency in handling patients thru telehealth or telerehab. The telehealth/telerehab has been emerging mode of delivery of PT services even before the pandemic. It is similar in structure as the face-to-face intervention therefore the students, despite the lack of experience in personally/physically handling patients, are still competent enough to deliver the services expected in a graduate of the BSPT program.
And with the shift to “new normal” in the delivery of health care, their educational experience amidst the pandemic can be considered as sufficient to adapt also in the change of the practice of profession. Lastly, with the strengthened theoretical foundation and evidence-based skills, the acquisition of the skills in face-to face handling of patients is expected to be achievable when the opportunity for this type of learning arises and as the graduates will treat their patients.
Judith M. Eduba, PTRP, MSPT
Asst. Dean, College of Physical Therapy