Eager to go to school, a third-grade student packed his bag with his learning materials as his parents awaited the announcement regarding the suspension of school. From the radio set we hear the grim announcement: the virus causing a global pandemic is now in the country and everybody is advised to stay home. Adults as well as kids are locked down, but learning has to continue at home. This left the student confused – inasmuch as he struggled to read his learning modules, he also struggled to make sense of the ongoing situation.

Watching children grow to achieve their dreams is the aspiration of both teachers and parents as they guide the young ones to their future. With enough anticipation and care, we make it their mission to bring out the best of the children. But how can we ensure that we are giving them a nurturing learning environment if this current pandemic crippled our resources?

Students in the 3rd grade are already expected to read independently and do numerical computations by themselves, but according to the Regional Unified Numeracy Test and Division Literacy test in San Jose District, Division of Antique, the results shows that among the 1,445 Grade 3 students that underwent the test, 218 students or 15.08% are non-numerates and 170 students or 11.76% are non-readers, raising the concern of the teachers in the district.

Each learner has a certain capacity to process the information given to them by chunking data into pieces they can easily digest and understand. In addition, students tend to have their own learning cycle that helps them quickly adapt. But some pupils, especially those that do not have enough resources for an optimal learning environment, are usually left behind. 

To some, the assessment results may just be a number, but it points to a pressing issue that demands our utmost attention. If not addressed, the inability to read and do basic arithmetical operations may be a roadblock to the educational sustainability of students.

As these concerning rates become an alarm for most instructors in the field, an innovation program thru the Development Academy of the Philippines’ Center for Governance, helped the Department of Education (DepEd) Schools Division Antique to come up with a strategic response called Count on US, ANITA (United Stakeholders Activate the Nurturing Intensive Teaching amidst Adversity). The project initially focuses on maximizing learning support systems for non-readers and non-numerators in the new normal through the active involvement of stakeholders in providing support to address the literacy and numeracy problems. The project develops a mentoring hub for parents, learners, and teachers, engaging experts to help improve learner’s performance, tapping professional pseudo-tutors or teachers to supplement learning gaps, developing learner packages for learners and potential partners, and orienting and capacitating learning facilitators.

Conduct of Capability Building for Teachers at Atabay Elementary School

Foreseeing possible challenges that might come along the way

The project changed the perspective of the people in the community, that improving the literacy and numeracy skills of learners are not the role of the teachers alone but rather by the entire community. That when there is unity, there is hope for every learner to be a champion,” said Anita Gubalane, Count on US, ANITA team leader.

Gubalane is an Education Program Supervisor of the Department of Education who also stands as a team leader of the said project. She took the lead in planning, implementing, and monitoring the entire project. The project’s planning took place in December 2020 and was implemented in January until April 2021. The initiative becomes an avenue for learners to adapt and sustain the means of learning.

For an ordinary 9-year-old pupil used to learning with his classmates in a typical classroom setup, along with all the things that make up the whole school experience, remote learning is stressful at times. At worst, it was found to be a discouraging experience. The innovation project, Count on US, ANITA  aims to fill this gap. 

Cooperative Endeavor

Mildred Napuli, Teacher I of San Jose District, said that the “Project Count on US, ANITA depicts the true bayanihan spirit wherein our stakeholders collaborate and work together for our beneficiaries.”

With this significant effort and consistent follow-ups for the project, it has already commenced as a strategic response for learners in the diverse phase of adaptability. Aside from the realistic assurance of dedication and commitment from everyone involved, information was disseminated through different platforms, which became an important factor in the successful mobilization for the project.

Gubalane also shared that there are salient events that contributed to the project’s early success, which are the development of learning packages and the conduct of home visitation to teach the struggling learners. Yet even if this flexible offer is here to stand, perennial problems such as numeracy and literacy conditions should not be overlooked but examined along with the progress made by the project. Echoing the Department of Education’s battle cry, she said, ‘no one should be left behind.’

School heads, teachers, and stakeholders joined hands as they are bound to enthusiastically implement the project as it continues to help the learners through its mode of accountability and the corresponding project implementation plan. It is a tremendous and exceptional package made to assist struggling learners.

Role of Fulfillment

“After two months of the implementation of the project through the Intensive Remote Teaching with the help of our various stakeholders, the innovation project Count on US, ANITA brought a significant impact on the reading and numeracy skills of the learners,” Ma. Adrilyn Lacurom, the District In-Charge said.

After the project’s intervention, 45% of the third-grader non-readers (78 out of 170) are now considered readers, and overall 515 learners have increased their reading level, initiating a great increase in the literacy level of students in the district. Meanwhile, 56% of the non-numerates (126 out of 218) are now under the category of numerates. At the same time, a total of 819 students increased their numeracy level – filling up the wide gap from the statistics before the intervention. 

As a result of the project, DepEd Antique also has better experience developing and implementing plans and better understanding of how to conduct intensive teaching and enhanced knowledge in developing learning packages to assist struggling learners. It is indeed a project made for sustainability and strategy that molds not just the learner’s preference but the implementer’s expertise as well.

Chances and Challenges

There is indeed hope in education. As the future begins to widen its door of opportunities for the young ones, teachers and parents can serve as the guide in navigating their way amidst uncertainties and challenges. Project Count on US, ANITA is a welcome development in helping students sustain their love of learning, despite the many struggles in the new normal.

“The project could be improved by having every school create a team to oversee the replication of the project in all districts. The team will continue to tap all potential stakeholders in the community and enhance the capability of teachers through the conduct of training on how to handle the struggling learners. It is also important to create a policy to institutionalize the Project Count on US ANITA,” Gubalane said. 

This innovation project showed us a glimpse of the difficulties of the current world we are living in. If children find it hard to adapt to their learning environment now, how could they possibly become the leaders of tomorrow? As we continue to navigate the uncertain terrain of a post-pandemic world, may we remember that while it is never easy to cope and adapt, having the help and support of the people around us can make it a little bit easier to make sense of the world around us.