Refusal for an Academic Freeze: An Ideal But Unrealistic Decision
Because of the emerging peril of COVID-19 in the Philippines, the government introduced a new learning approach to be adopted by all educational institutions along with its students: Online Learning. And, with the ongoing threat of the pandemic, online education is only reasonable; thus accepted by the people. What was not well received by the public, however, was the refusal of an academic freeze. Regardless of the clamors made by the public, the Department of Education (DepEd) still refused the petition for an academic freeze nationwide, thereby continuing the opening of classes. A glaring fault in this refusal is the reality that the Philippines is not prepared. We are not prepared to implement such drastic changes under the assumption that with their limited preparation, online learning would be workable to push immediately — workable to the fortunate, but not to those who are less fortunate. Hence, the academic freeze is not a petition to discontinue classes from happening. They purely meant it to give more time. It may not be an ideal action, but it is certainly realistic to stop the widening digital divide in the Philippines.
First point: the petition for an academic freeze may not sound ideal, but it is assuredly realistic considering the situation of the Philippines. During the nationwide lockdown caused by COVID-19, many businesses either temporarily or permanently closed their operations because of the great loss of customers. While there are still businesses that survived the ordeal, this often came with an opportunity cost: to either give salaries lower than what they had agreed upon or to end the employment of someone. What this implies concerning the academic freeze is that pushing for an already expensive online education when not everybody has the means to comply with it, simply for the fear of being left out, will only aggravate the struggles and stress given to them by the pandemic. That, certainly, is not being realistic.
Second point: insisting education to continue, regardless of the situation, will only romanticize, once again, what has been coined as “Filipino resiliency.” There is this idea that Filipinos will always smile even when faced with a calamity. We know Filipinos are known to be strong individuals, who will always manage their situations no matter how bad it is. Though it may sound good, in reality, it is not. This Filipino resiliency becomes an excuse for some people to neglect their situation because they can and will manage. What this signifies to the refusal for an academic freeze is that Filipinos are once again indirectly expected to deal with whatever challenges they are facing using their creativity and resiliency, which could only further widen the digital divide — to the extent that the two clusters of society (the privileged and underprivileged) are no longer visible to each other.
Hence, although we cannot reverse what already happened, the only thing that we could do is to make sure that we will continue to help and lift the burden laden to them by the pandemic. We should make sure that this divide, not only in technology but also in all aspects of life, will not widen to the extent that it is already impossible to bridge it. We must always remember that we should, at all times, be considerate of others’ situations. We should not neglect the lives of the minority only because we or the majority can. All it takes is a bit of empathy: what if you were them?
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