School’s definitely out until a vaccine for the novel Coronavirus becomes readily available, so declared Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during one of his late-night briefings to the nation a few weeks ago. For the country’s science and technology department, however, that doesn’t mean the learning should stop.
Before the CoViD-19 outbreak forced the Philippine government to impose the various levels of community quarantines nationwide, students in the provinces were able to experience the Science Explorer and nuLab buses of the Science Education Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-SEI). These facilities brought science and laboratory works to students even in far-flung areas. As the “new normal” has compelled these mobile science learning facilities to be discontinued indefinitely, the department has had to resort to both innovative and back-to-basics means of reaching and teaching to all corners of the country.
“Learning the basics in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM at the pre-secondary level is considered foundational in that it serves as the pillars for processing more complex concepts in later years of education,” said Dr. Josette Biyo, DOST-SEI Director.
To ensure continuous learning despite the ongoing global health crisis, DOST-SEI is developing supplemental education resources that will enable the students and teachers to enrich their STEM learning even when they’re outside the confines of their classrooms, and in effect promote STEM careers.
This school year, elementary students, especially in the remote areas of the country which do not have a reliable internet connection, and high school students who have access to the internet, will be able to learn the sciences even when they’re at home.
DOST-SEI will be collaborating with the Department of Education (DepEd) to enhance STEM learning for elementary students through their “RadyoEskwela sa Siyensya” and for high school students through “TuklaSiyensya sa Eskwela” programs. These programs will be on the roll in time for the opening of classes this school year.
Why “balik radio (back to radio)?”
Radio remains the most accessible medium in rural areas. It has proven to be an effective educational channel when used in combination with classroom learning and/or printed learning materials. Online learning may be feasible to students in the urban areas, but this is not the case for students in many disadvantaged areas who do not have access to reliable internet connection at home, and whose families may not own tablets, laptops or computers. For this population, information comes from the radio, which is considered to be the second most-used media, reaching 85% of Philippine households, according to Philippine Statistics Authority data.
Communities with no access to internet, television, and mobile communication have been relying on radio for information. The basic yet pervasive mass-based channels and approaches again become useful in the delivery of science education for school age children in the countryside.
This school year, grade school students can listen to “RadyoEskwela sa Siyensya”, a radio program which will feature story-based science lessons to be aired by a community radio network which will be the media partner of DOST-SEI for this project. “RadyoEskwela” consists of 20 half-hour episodes that are story-based and produced for early, primary and intermediate clustered grade levels. The episodes may be replayed by regional stations and offered to DepEd as learning resources for students who will be in distance learning mode anytime during the school year.
The teachers will also be provided with a teacher’s guide to help them integrate the episodes in their daily lessons. These may be downloaded from the SEI website and will also be accessible through the DOST regional offices and provincial S&T Centers. Topics for “RadyoEskwela” include “Mikrobyo (microbes)”, “Lutang (floating)”, “Insekto (insect)”, “Pagsukat (measurement)”, “Tala (star)”, “Street Food”, and “Tubig (water)”.
“TuklasSiyensya”, on the other hand, is designed as both a supplement to the traditional learning method for junior and senior high school students and STEM career promotions package. The modules are designed to help students adapt to the “new normal” and ensure their continuous learning during this time. Online modules will be produced using the facilities available at the nuLab and based on the existing modules developed by young scientists and scholars who will also serve as facilitators. It will feature engaging presentations by the scientist-facilitators, process demonstrations, animations, and post-viewing activities to enrich students’ learning experience and inspire them to explore natural phenomenon or know more about a particular STEM discipline.
Results of project evaluation reveal how the scientists who facilitate nuLab and Science Explorer modules are able to influence the participants in their choice of future careers in the STEM fields.
“TuklasSyensya” will produce 15 science lessons, each running between 30 and 45 minutes. These lessons will be uploaded to an online platform, making it available for access to formal and informal learners anytime. Topics include aerospace engineering, geological hazards, oceanography, and nanotechnology, among others.
With this project, not only are students’ learning enriched, but teachers also get to enhance their teaching skills because they will be provided with 15 teacher’s guides to be published online by DOST-SEI or reproduced as low-cost printed materials by DOST Regional Offices.
AY 2021 undergraduate scholarships slots opened
Meanwhile, DOST calls on the youth to join the science community by pursuing careers in STEM.
The availability of scholarship slots has been announced for the 2021 DOST-SEI S&T Undergraduate Scholarships for incoming Grade 12 students in AY 2020-2021 who intend to pursue STEM courses when they enroll in college next year. The scholarship program aims to push for knowledge-driven development through S&T human resource advancement.
“Amid the uncertainty, we soldier on in providing scholarship opportunities for college studies. The DOST Scholarship invites talented Filipino youth to pursue STEM-related careers and take active participation in research and development (R&D) activities. We hope to have more scientists, especially in this changing world,” Biyo said.
Applicants for the scholarship must be natural-born Filipinos of good moral character and in good health. Application is open to students in the STEM strand. Those in the non-STEM strand may also apply, provided they belong to the top 5% of their graduating class.
Students who belong to families whose socio-economic status does not exceed the cut-off values for certain indicators may apply for RA 7687 program, otherwise, applicants may apply for the Merit Scholarship Program.
To be able to enjoy the scholarship, applicants should pass the 2021 S&T Undergraduate Scholarships Examination and pursue a Bachelor of Science degree program in any of the priority fields of study at a state university or college or any private higher education institution that is recognized by the Commission on Higher Education as Center of Excellence or Center of Development or with at least FAAP Level III accreditation for the BS program that they intend to enroll in. For the complete list of requirements, priority programs, and study placements, visit SEI’s website at www.sei.dost.gov.ph.
Interested applicants may apply online through https://www.science- scholarships.ph/. The deadline for online application is on August 28, 2020. The nationwide qualifying examination is on October 25, 2020. (S&T Media Service, DOST-STII)