Faced with but unfazed by the recent public health crisis, PNU has endured and forged ahead to map the unexplored terrain of post-COVID-19 education. Propelled by the national education gains and driven by a renewed commitment to curb the negative effects of the pandemic on learning, PNU proposes a recovery and continuity roadmap that consolidates the visions, best practices and commitment statements of education leaders and experts generated during the International Conference on Quality Education in the New Normal (ICQENN), hosted by PNU and the Philippines’ Commission on Higher Education in November 2022.
The roadmap, which formulates directions for other teacher education institutions (TEIs) in the Philippines to sustain education gains, covers perspectives and initiatives in the following key areas:
- Multi-stakeholder participation and representation.
- Transformative pedagogies for quality teaching and learning.
- Future-proof curriculum for teachers of tomorrow’s learners.
- Practicable customisation for teacher quality support.
WHAT COVID-19 DIDN’T DISRUPT
Decades of progress in many facets of education in the Philippines may have been wiped out by the pandemic in only two years. Systems and practices were shown to be fragile in the face of a public health crisis. However, the country’s efforts to ensure quality within the education sector were not drastically diminished by the dreaded disease.
A shining example has been the development, adoption and strengthened implementation of the Philippine Professional Standards for Teachers (PPST), School Heads (PPSSH), and Supervisors (PPSS). Following the country’s Department of Education’s pre-pandemic adoption of the PPST to enhance teacher quality, the PPSSH and PPSS acknowledge the roles of school heads and supervisors as key leaders in the education system, and vital agents in achieving the government’s aim to provide quality basic education.
Other more sustainable education gains in the country involve many legislative moves that demonstrated a shift in Filipino policymakers’ focus — from providing mere equitable access to quality education towards ensuring inclusivity, the enhancement of values, and character education aimed at nation-building.
Along with the strengthening of career progression mechanisms for basic education teachers and school heads has come the enactment of the Excellence in Teacher Education Act, which, among its many functions, establishes teacher education centres of excellence in the country, allowing for more targeted training of current and aspiring teachers. The law, which underwent its most crucial consultations and deliberations at the height of the pandemic, also empowers the Philippines’ Teacher Education Council to effect more impactful actions to maintain the integrity of the professional standards for education professionals, and institutionalises the National Educators Academy of the Philippines to provide quality professional development programmes for teachers and school leaders.
Such education gains reaped by the country’s education sector show that some good came out of a difficult time. It is clearly vital to take stock of the dismal statistics that throw light on the many vulnerabilities that challenged our existing education systems and practices. More beneficial, however, is to view them as a reminder of every educator’s noble duty to create new, alternative and innovative education practices that are aligned and compatible with the demands of the post-COVID-19 world.
WHEN BOUNDARIES BECOME BOUNDLESS
Any post-COVID-19 education initiatives must involve careful, collaborative planning and extensive expert engagement through active conversations and meaningful discussions.
Catalysing a national, if not global, discussion on how Philippine education needs to be rethought in a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty and precarity was achieved by a shift to multi-stakeholder participation in online consultations, which in turn allowed for improved representation and thereby ensured multi-sectoral involvement, wider partnerships, stronger government support, and community/civil society engagement in institutional goal-setting and operations.
With geographical boundaries and barriers removed, and as evidenced by the successful International Conference on Quality Education in the New Normal (ICQENN) in November 2022 with the involvement of education experts from around the globe, virtual consultative forums and conferences have enhanced the conceptualisation and implementation of teacher education agendas and development initiatives.
HOW DISTANCE TRANSFORMED DISTANCE LEARNING
Among the most pronounced impacts of the pandemic on teaching and learning has been the increased utilisation of online education. Access, the availability of technological infrastructures and income levels are still glaring concerns, but the question of effectiveness, including whether or not such a pedagogical framework enables the development of holistic, future-ready teachers who can genuinely deliver quality instruction and bring about enhanced student outcomes, is gradually being addressed through vigilant monitoring and evaluation, and quality assurance of innovative teacher education pedagogical models and diversified delivery design for quality and transformative flexible learning.
The ultimate goal of transforming the teaching-learning experience in teacher development programmes by integrating needs-responsive and holistic digital learning pedagogies gained even more impetus with the careful development, phased implementation and institutionalisation of Kaway- Aralan sa Bagong Kadawyan,1 PNU’s own brand of flexible learning modality.
This ground-breaking learning delivery programme adequately represents every Filipino educator’s pioneering spirit — confident, pliant, yet resilient amid challenges, like the bamboo (“Kawayan”) or the sway of the hand (“Kaway”). It has allowed PNU to mitigate the learning crisis and disparities, and enabled its students and teachers to navigate the unfamiliar frontiers of learning in the new normal.
WHERE POST-PANDEMIC AND FUTURE-READY MEET
Reimagining the future of teacher education entails the alignment of the curriculum with educational priorities geared at addressing future challenges and prospects. Urgent measures must be taken to provide teacher education institutions with “curricula of the future”, allowing teachers to envision and enact new forms of learning and acknowledging specific and diversified learner contexts and a highly-developed knowledge economy.
Interestingly, the pandemic has not only facilitated PNU’s successful migration from traditional to convertible flexible learning, but has also allowed it to refine its outcomes-based curriculum framework. Refining the teacher education curriculum means ensuring that it is attuned to the future, and informed of the realities, demands and opportunities that were revealed by the health crisis and other national/ global shifts and directions.
Envisioned to serve as an innovative curricular model for other teacher education institutions, the new framework, along with its multi-pathway ladderised delivery design, promotes flexibility in the selection and crediting of courses relevant to a needs-based, self-designed, and self-directed student-centred “curriculum of the future” for tomorrow’s learners. It provides a firm grounding for the many developments in curriculum, teaching and school leadership in the new normal, and guarantees that the various education imperatives revealed by the rapidly changing teaching and learning post-COVID-19 landscape can be addressed.
HOW SUPPORTING TEACHERS ENSURES QUALITY EDUCATION
In its most recent report the country’s basic education sector highlighted the need to provide support to teachers, whom the Education Secretary dubbed “the lifeblood of the Department of Education”.
This priority aligns seamlessly with not only the Philippine Development Plan 2023–2028, which involves the improvement of teachers’ competencies in its strategy framework for education and lifelong learning, but also with Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, which aims “to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries”. Furthermore, UNESCO’s direction for supporting teachers is clear: since teachers are the key to quality education, they must be sufficiently supported within well-resourced and effectively-governed systems.
Learnings gleaned from and opportunities brought by the PNU experience during the pandemic have also been shaped into the innovative customised delivery of its graduate programmes, and specialised training to support the continuing professional development of teachers and education leaders in the country.
Another testament to the transformative effect of the pandemic, which removed the geographical and infrastructural barriers of in-person education delivery, is the Linking Standards and Quality Practice (LiSQuP) programme geared towards “making quality practice common practice” among basic education personnel who hail from different parts of the archipelago.
By developing customised systems and processes, including a responsive programme framework, a delivery model that integrates academic and specialised training courses with job-embedded learning grounded in the educator’s workstation, and flexible learning modes and gateway assessment strategies, PNU is able to address the perceived and projected support needs of teachers and school leaders in the country, while personalising their learning journeys and adopting appropriate models for delivering competency-based education.
Regardless of whether the gains that were reaped during the most difficult period in our recent history remain unnoticed or undocumented, the opportunity to gauge the usefulness of existing traditional practices in light of learnings and experiences from the pandemic has enabled every teacher education institution to develop improved pedagogies and innovative models that are more suitable and responsive to the needs of both teachers and learners in the new normal.
In this, we no longer dwell only on the accumulated learning loss that the education sector suffered, but focus instead on formulating targeted strategies to reinvent Philippine education so that it can withstand the erratic and unpredictable nature of the present era.
Strategically mapping out ways forward, guided by the carefully and collectively crafted Teacher Education Recovery and Continuity Roadmap, will boost our vital endeavour to stimulate innovation, introduce possible routes for education reforms, upgrade and improve learning pedagogies, invest in more efficient school governance mechanisms, and gain a deeper understanding of education quality in the new normal, while continuously addressing national and global development goals.
DR BERT J. TUGA
Dr Bert J. Tuna is the President of the Philippine Normal University (PNU), the National Center for Teacher Education by virtue of Republic Act 9647.
DR JENNIE V. JOCSON
Dr Jennie V. Joscon is the Vice President for Academics of PNU and the concurrent Director of the National Research Center for Teacher Quality (RCTQ), a partnership between PNU and the University of New England Australia, supported by the Australian Government.
ERHWIN A. CLARIN
Erhwin A. Clarin works as a researcher on teacher and teacher quality at the Philippine Normal University.