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[B-SIDE Podcast] The university of the future: Philippine tertiary education amid the pandemic

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The academic year is about to start. Universities and colleges are shifting to remote learning as physical classrooms all across the world have shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his address, President Rodrigo Duterte said that face-to-face classes would be allowed only when a vaccine becomes available. We don’t know when that is. 

In this episode, Raymundo D. Rovillos, chancellor of the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio, talks about the university’s plans for remote learning. Turns out, the UP System has to play catch up with the likes of Mapua Institute of Technology and Far Eastern University, schools that embraced remote learning long before the coronavirus hit because of Manila’s notorious traffic jams. 

Mr. Rovillos also tells BusinessWorld reporter Revin Mikhael Ochave that shifting to remote learning isn’t just about technology. It’s about overhauling expectations and mindsets. Teachers have to change the way they teach, and they’ll have to change the way students are evaluated. The chancellor knows that there will be bumps in the road, but he’s hopeful.

This wide-ranging episode covers grades, enrollment, entrance exams, things like UP’s maximum residency rule, even how long Christmas break is going to be. 

TAKEAWAYS

The pandemic fast-tracked the shift to remote learning; UP has to play catch up with other institutions.

“The entire educational system of the world will continue to migrate to an online or a blended style of learning, the pandemic has just fast-tracked it. In the future it will be a standard,” Mr. Rovillos said. 

Remote learning, he added, maximizes available technological infrastructure: texting, social media websites, e-mail, thumb drives containing learning modules, and any other assets that can deliver education to the students. “Previous syllabi cannot be used now as they are designed for a different type of setting in mind,” Mr. Rovillos said.

The chancellor noted that UP lags behind universities such as Mapua Institute and Far Eastern University, which invested in virtual learning because of the traffic snarls in Manila. 

Connectivity is a primary concern among students. 

There will be many obstacles and issues that educational institutions will have to face.

“As early as March, UP Baguio already had data regarding Internet availability for students on hand. There is an expressed need among students for internet connection support. There is currently a need to subsidize Internet connection especially those within areas that have no connection at all,” Mr. Rovillos said. “There is also the need to invest in massive online learning operating systems that can be used within entire systems of education such as the UP system.” 

Expectations have to be overhauled.

“We have to change the mindset of the people,” said Mr. Rovillos. The manner of teaching, performance evaluation, and requirements will have to change to accommodate the resources available to students as well as their psychological and mental well-being. “Now is the time for greater compassion and understanding. … But, of course, deadlines are still deadlines.” 

The university is aware of the mental stress this pandemic is causing. And so UP is offering counseling and other forms of psychological support to those who need it.

This episode was recorded remotely on July 4. Produced by Nina M. Diaz, Paolo L. Lopez, and Sam L. Marcelo.

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