Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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FIRING LINE: Performance tasks, again!

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BY Robert B. Roque, Jr.

A year ago, I pondered on the plight of students just like my Grade 11 daughter. Almost every night, from early evening until the wee hours, I saw her conducting research, writing, and printing homework called performance tasks or “PTs”.

While I understood that homework is about the discipline that helps her work towards her life’s goal, I also wanted her to have fun, especially on weekends. And an excessive assignment of these PTs – imagine one for every subject – robbed her of her other life out of school… the one with family.

For younger graders like my seven-year-old son, homework seemed rather an ineffective way of learning. At that age, they are supposed to enjoy being just that – kids.

I harped on this last year in the heat of the debate in Congress over a proposed measure to disallow schools from assigning students any homework for the weekends. The DepEd stepped in with sound judgment, issuing all schools a memo to do just that.

In this age of the pandemic, where education has become a learn-from-home arrangement, I’m still hearing complaints about excessive PTs from fellow parents who now actively portray the part of being second teachers to students.

So, the question now is, “How do we gauge an excessive assignment of homework?” Well, I’ve heard of schools in and around the Cubao area in Quezon City (and I’m sure there are others) that compute performance tasks or PTs as 60 percent of a student’s grade in the subject. That’s 60 percent of effort and time spent outside of their online time with teachers – time they’re supposed to be doing other things apart from homework.

Such weight given to PTs will provide you this sob story from online learners: They’re trapped at home, and there’s no more time for anything else but “schoolwork”. Home has become school, and there seems to be no break from it.

The shift to online classes aims to keep children at home and safe from exposure to the coronavirus while they scale the basic education ladder. At the end of the day, their aptitude on every subject will be tested; and to qualify for the next level will not require them to submit their best papier mache or poster project, crossword puzzles, recorded voice clips, or videos of themselves performing a task every day of every week. It won’t be a game of “truth or dare”.

But my bigger concern as a parent is how to keep our children healthy. Daily and multiple performance tasks computed at 60 percent of their grades will take a toll on their health.

Even the Department of Health (DOH) raised the alarm that digital education may increase feelings of isolation among students and strain their overall health. As such, they may experience “fatigue, headaches, lack of motivation, and avoidance/procrastination, among others”, the DOH said.

I’m not too fond of the idea of zero homework, but not in excess. Schools should allow youngsters to have an academic-personal life balance, including being physically active in their own interests, participating in home and family activities, and essential habits such as eating on time and sleeping well.

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