Senior High School learners are the ones heavily affected by school closures amid COVID-19. Learning has been done remotely, through modules, internet, television or radio, for example. However, the degree to which learning can still take place outside the classroom, particularly in Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) Track, is often limited by lack of access to electricity, internet connectivity, devices or media, learning platforms, or the inadequate preparation of teachers and students for distance learning. Some students face additional constraints in terms of time availability due to competing household responsibilities, such as caring for children and elderly family members and other household duties to help the family economically survive. Adjustments to distance learning can be the hardest in low-income contexts and among vulnerable learners.
The hallmark of TVL – its focus on practical skills and work-readiness – makes distance learning particularly challenging. Practical skills are often acquired through learning-by-doing, which occurs in school-based workshops and laboratories or through hands-on experience through work immersion. Distance learning approaches are now seen as a weak substitute for practical exercises when they require the use of equipment or materials not usually found inside the home. In general, however, TVL specializations that struggle most with adjustment to distance learning are those that depend heavily on learning-by-doing. In contrast, some specializations that can switch to distance learning more easily are those with a stronger emphasis on academic subjects or on work-specific skills that do not require manual activities. For example, Crop production and Fisheries will be relatively easy to move online compared to Computer Systems Servicing as the latter requires substantial hands-on practice with specific equipment and network facilities generally not available inside the home of our disadvantaged learners.
TVL track which may lead to the learners’ opportunity to qualify for a National Certificate II (NCII) has become increasingly valued to improve employability and other human development outcomes for SHS TVL learners. Moreover, investment in these credentials, which are hoped to improve students’ labor market outcomes, can ensure lifelong access to learning opportunities and future workforce adaptability. However, taking the NCII assessment has not been recognized as a requirement for graduation. The decision to acquire National certification is left to the TVL learners and families. This poses a serious question if the K to 12 programs is serious enough in preparing them academically and technically to improve their employability in relation to their specialization as one of the promised curriculum exit expectations of the K to 12 programs.
Another issue is the implementation of Work Immersion (WI) for TVL track. This is severely affected during this COVID-19 crisis scenario. Work Immersion is expected to provide SHS TVL learners with opportunities to become familiar with the workplace, simulate employment, and to apply their competence in Computer Systems Servicing in the actual work environment during the pandemic and for the possible future disruptions in education. This work-based learning is a requirement for TVL track while it is optional for other tracks.
Pursuant to DM-CI- 2020-00085, Guidelines for Work Immersion Implementation During Crisis Situations, dated June 2, 2020, it is highly suggested to prioritize TVL track learners to undergo Work Immersion. Four schemes are suggested on how WI shall be implemented: In-School, Home-Based, Community-Based, and School and Industry Tie-Up. While the suggested activities for Electronics and Computer Systems Servicing in the said Memorandum are purely provided under the In-School scheme, these cannot be implemented because of President Duterte’s December 26, 2020 announcement on the suspension of all face-to-face activities in schools. This directive puts learners’ physical attendance in schools prohibited.
During the orientation on Work Immersion with the Regional Supervisors, activities are suggested as equivalent to WI-Home Based. For instance, Basic Computer Repair for Computer System Servicing specialization has been suggested but this may not be achievable since this would entail the use of equipment or materials not usually found inside the home of the learners. Moreover, the widespread or prolonged closures of businesses or extensive physical distancing limits prove that the School and Industry Tie-Up may also not be applicable. These situations point to the Community-Based scheme as the remaining best option for the TVL-CSS WI implementation.
Preparing the graduating students who hope and relied on us heavily to gain relevant and practical industrial skills and to eventually take the CSS NCII Assessment, TVL teachers need to come up with out-of-box responses in order to fulfill these promises of the Senior High School TVL program and to address the challenges faced due to COVID-19 induced school limitations in teaching TVL-related skills. To gain confidence in taking and passing the national certificate assessment, specialized training in an environment where learners can work on the required core competencies is a very important factor to pass the assessment. This may be voluntarily conducted in the communities or neighborhood through exerting more effort on the part of the teachers. This act will not only ensure the acquisition and development of foundational TVL skills but will surely demonstrate hopefulness, empathy, and resilience amidst the pandemic. And to ensure the acquisition of the academic requirements of Work Immersion without sacrificing the standards of quality education, safety, and security of learners and teachers, the learners’ WI activities may be deemed safer when implemented in their respective residence Barangays.
In line with the K to 12 targets for the Senior High School graduates, this Community-Based Trainings and Work Immersion project may address the problems with the current crisis. All it needed is the commitment to the profession, a little creativity, and innovativeness of TVL teachers to make these activities available, despite the on-going crisis, all for the welfare of our learners.