Interaction with learners

Pandemic highlights must bridge education system and Indigenous culture

By Karl P. Quilal-lan

TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte (MindaNews / September 25) – The adoption by the Department of Education (DepEd) of the modular distance learning approach in places like Sitio Igang in Brgy. Sto. Niño in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, where online lessons are not possible, compounded the difficulties for learners.

This is how Bernalin Mansiwagan, a 28-year-old teacher from the Ata Manobo tribe, assessed the method used in many areas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Naglisod naman gani kaayo ang mga bata tong F-to-F pa, she said, “Unsa nalang kaha karon?” Karon nga papel ra’y nasa atubangan sa bata, wala’y madungog, wala’y makita’g masundog sa atubangan ” (The children had serious difficulties even when it was still face to face, how much more these days? Now that there are only papers in front of them, nothing to listen to, and nothing to observe and imitate in front of them).

Bernalin cited that these difficulties have existed since the construction of concrete schools. On the one hand, she observed that such environments did not stimulate learning. Rather than welcoming them, the classroom walls only confused the students.

“It’s not a place where they naturally position themselves, so it may not inspire motivation to learn,” she continued.

And that’s just when they walked into the classroom. It became more difficult when they were introduced to Western learning concepts.

The teacher of the Bernalin Mansiwagan public school drives a motorbike to get around. Photo MindaNews courtesy of KARL P. QUILAL-LAN

“Yes, A is for Apple”Said Bernalin,“ but that doesn’t exist in our community. If only A was for Am-bō, then they would have known that he represented rat, and the thought process could have been a foundation.

As with the alphabet, so were numbers and arithmetic, symbols and procedures. The objects and ideas used in their education compromised their cultural perceptions, philosophies and practices. Thus, the essence of amplifying the learning process with examples and representations then became ineffective.

“Ata Manobo’s children only try to learn when they feel they are ready and when their parents see that they are ready to learn,” Bernalin noted.

“They watch their fathers hunt in the mountains. They watch their mothers tinker liyangs (baskets). When they are ready, children join their parents in their practice, ”she added.

Now imagine this context in today’s modular learning approach.

The world they knew was not in harmony with the world taught in school. “We needed a bridge! said Bernalin. She believed that connecting the two worlds is the key to an encouraging educational experience. But she said it must be a shared responsibility.

Everyone must do their part. “Grabe na’g tinambling-tumbling ang plus maistra for makat-on lang ang mga bata,” she said, “pero naa gihapo’y kulang. (Teachers are already trying so hard for children to learn, but something is still missing.)

Seeing that adversities surfaced in the fundamental premises of learning, relevant sectors responded by developing policies to contextualize the education of indigenous peoples and reconcile indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP) with contemporary educational principles. And although the process was laborious, this initiative was carried over into the writing of today’s learning modules. The promotion of IKSPs in the modular learning approach has been attempted.

Bernalin was invited to be one of the authors of adaptations in line with the Ata Manobo culture. Unfortunately, efforts to validate this “localized” content remain to be implemented. She understood that while the intention was laudable, the delay due to the need for a thorough review of the proposed materials cannot be ignored. And so the fate of the students persists.

“The responsibility for learning now rests solely with the students,” she said, “and that’s sad to know. “

In the interest of continuity of learning, the distribution of materials has continued. But the content reflected in the learning modules of the students of Ata Manobo de Sitio Igang remains identical to the standard material used for all under DepEd. This meant that the difficulties experienced by the students before were not fully addressed, just “reformatted” during the pandemic.

“But at least it’s already there,” Bernalin said, sounding optimistic.

Even though the modular approach in delivering education may have added insult to injury, she argued that its implementation has also produced potential remedies for the future of Ata Manobo’s education. .

The author, Karl P. Quilal-lan (L), with Bernalin Mansiwagan at her home in Purok Tibi-tibi, Barangay Sto. Niño in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Photo MindaNews courtesy of KARL P. QUILAL-LAN

With printed learning materials and the availability of ‘contextualized’ educational content, learning and teaching can become a mere dash for students and teachers in the event of a possible return to the classroom. As students progress through the program, this could rearrange their learning expectations and reduce unfamiliarity, which teachers previously viewed as a significant problem.

“This access to tangible references at home is a step forward towards building this bridgeFurthermore, the pandemic may have heralded a solution to the limits of teachers’ efforts in the inclusive development of their students.

She said that unlike before, teachers and parents now have a stronger relationship. In Sitio Igang, Fridays mark the reception by the school of the completed learning modules and the publication of new content to captivate the students the following week. And since elementary school students are considered an at-risk population, parents have been urged to claim and submit their children’s papers.

This regular interaction paved the way for the inclusion of parents as actors in the education of their children. From now on, parents are invited to be actively present in the progress of their children. A much more complete connection had transformed from what was then limited student-teacher interactivity. In this regard, Bernalin said that “it is a novelty for the parents of Ata Manobo here … but it is a good thing”.

Finally, to inspire the presence of teachers despite the distance, regular interventions and consultations were put in place to help the students of Ata Manobo who had difficulty keeping up, like the “Gabay-Tinig ” program in the school where Bernalin teaches.

She believes that this practice of not leaving a child behind could be replicated in the “face-to-face” approach to better meet the needs of students.

According to her, the Kapwa The right (to unity) is alive after all, the pandemic not reducing it to mere courtesy.

“It’s slowly falling into place,” she said. “We’re getting there. ” (Karl P. Quilal-lan for MindaNews)