When public health concerns required the education system to go completely online, the disruption was enormous. Fortunately, eased restrictions have allowed students and teachers alike to benefit from blended learning, in which online learning can be supplemented by a return to some level of in-person support.
Blended learning is certainly not new for many higher learning institutions in the Philippines, and even gradually becoming the norm. Yet the challenges around accessibility and student engagement that first cropped up over two years ago, continue to persist . These issues have severe repercussions on the quality and impact of student output – especially in tertiary education.
It is hardly surprising, then, that research indicates that academic misconduct is growing in prevalence in the Philippines. Another study found that contract cheating - the practice of engaging a third party to complete student assignments - was a common method employed by students looking to cheat. Alarmingly, this study suggests that there is hardly a shortage of supply to meet the demand for these services – with unemployed senior high school, college graduates, industry professionals and even private and public-school teachers offering their ‘expertise’ for a price.
This points to a deeper issue in an education system characterized by potentially overwhelming workloads which do not necessarily equip students to learn authentically. In fact, the above-mentioned qualitative research by Aguilar (2021) cites this learning disconnect as among the leading causes of student motivation to enlist contract cheating services. Aggravating this further is inadequate digital infrastructure, which affects teachers’ connection with students and blunts guidance. With students left to their own devices, no wonder we’re witnessing learning losses and a rise in academic misconduct.
Authentic learning as a bedrock of national development
While great strides are being made to ride the wave of digitalization in the wake of the pandemic, the gaping holes around accessibility and equity must be plugged before academic standards and the credibility of local institutions are compromised.
Effective collaboration between institutions, educators and wider society will need to be at the heart of these efforts. This is especially the case for nations that possess such a wealth of potential, like the Philippines. With the acceleration of digitalization in education, solutions that empower authentic learning make the difference in more ways than one. Not only does fair, authentic learning safeguard the robustness of academic and research output directly linked to the national development agenda, it also ensures students are work-ready while developing honest, upstanding citizens.
Empowering educators to nurture student learning outcomes via flexibility and responsiveness in blended learning environments is a key element of cultivating lifelong learning, where tangible growth and transformational thinking can occur.
Equipping Filipino teachers to engage effectively with students
Systemic crises have shown to be a powerful driver of self-reflection and change. Now more than ever, mitigation of academic shortcomings and student misconduct through informed, preemptive steps is essential to safeguarding the quality of our education system.
Most importantly, this helps our educators identify the hurdles that students face and how they respond in the face of these challenges, enabling educators to address the root of the issue.
With flexibility and trust key to ensuring successful course delivery in asynchronous modalities, institutions must do all they can to enable educators to pivot and meet the needs of their students. This includes measures such as establishing robust, socialised honor codes, as well as tools that facilitate originality checking of student submissions, and will allow us to progress conversations and action on the future of education in the Philippines.
At the end of the day, the relationship between teacher and student is of utmost importance. The role of technology is not a replacement for pedagogy, but rather, a facilitator for more proactive measures to educate students about the implications of misconduct and unethical academic practices. It should be leveraged to support both students and educators in the context of more effective feedback and curricula tailored to learner needs.