In the last few months, Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc. (KCFI) has had to make a couple of crucial pivots—and make them fast. One instance was when it rolled out its work from home scheme right before the country went on lockdown.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March, we were forced to create major overhauls to our usual routines and the company’s operations,” shares technical and research assistant Marianne Laron. “In terms of our programs, we also had to gradually shift most if not all of it online and work thrice as much to widen our reach and intensify our digital presence. The keys are flexibility and adaptability.”
Marketing and events assistant Azrael Gonzales adds that as a result of the new arrangement, they had to cancel their scheduled turnovers, trainings and events.
“It’s unfortunate because we knew how excited the schools were to receive a Gift of Knowledge package and to be trained,” says Gonzales. “Having turnover events and trainings held on-ground is so much different and better because we get to personally meet the people we serve and cater to.”
Mary Sharina Rose Yruma initially saw the quarantine as an opportunity to work from home for “one or two weeks, tops.”
“Although the physical exhaustion I usually get from traveling has been greatly diminished, there is a whole new challenge in finding my extrovert self in a space of near isolation. I sometimes feel like this requires of me the same if not more energy,” Yruma, who serves as KCFI’’s school and community engagement coordinator, says.
According to director for operations Edric Calma, KCFI president and executive director Rina Lopez Bautista extended the initial two-week work from home arrangement to one month before continuing it indefinitely until such time it becomes safe for people to return to their offices.
KCPML hard drives
Before the pandemic, the Knowledge Channel was in about 8,000 public schools all over the country, thanks to sponsors who teamed up with KCFI. Through these partnerships, schools were equipped with combinations of SKYdirect or ABS-CBN TVplus for on-air broadcast and Knowledge Channel Portable Media Libraries (KCPMLs) or Knowledge TV, an educational video content delivery system composed of an Android TV and KCh app to enable offline access to more than a thousand programs.
With these access points now temporarily unavailable due to the suspension of face-to-face classes, KCFI pulled off another pivot by presenting the KCPML hard drives—which contain video lessons on elementary and high school subjects that teachers can include in their weekly lesson plans—to elementary and secondary schools.
“The KCPML is our way of providing our video learning materials to teachers that cannot access our materials on-air or online. Various Department of Education (DepEd) regions, divisions and public and private schools are availing of the KCPML,” explains Lopez Bautista.
Even as it tries to provide schools “with as many PMLs as possible,” the foundation encourages teachers to copy the video lessons on to storage devices to enable their learners to watch them from home with their own gadgets, adds Doris Nuval, KCFI’s access and school community engagement head.
Another major KCFI pivot was the transformation of its flagship Learning Effectively through Enhanced and Evidence-based Pedagogies (LEEP) program to deal with the limitations imposed by the pandemic. Now called Knowledge Channel: Teaching in the New Normal or KCTINN, the intensive three-day training that used to be carried out in various parts of the Philippines fully migrated online in July.
“LEEP should be responsive and adjust to the times. When the DepEd schools division office in South Cotabato asked for LEEP despite the prohibitions, we thought it was the proper time to rework our content and delivery while still keeping the fundamental principles of LEEP and, of course, taking into consideration the current context,” shares Calma. “This means the specific objectives and corresponding activities would have to be modified. Challenges? Shifting mindsets of both our trainers and trainees: conscious effort to convey that the teaching environment will have no face-to-face classroom sessions anymore and learning will happen at home with self-learning modules (SLMs).”
“It was like going back to the very first LEEP I had in 2015,” admits marketing and events coordinator Niña de Sagun. “How can we make each day engaging even we are joined only on screens? How can we make learning possible? The real challenge for the team is to focus on understanding the context of learners and distance learning and to aid teachers in creating positive learning experiences even without the regular classroom environment, encouraging support from parents in assisted instruction. Fortunately, with every rollout we also get to improve our modules and make it as tailor-fit as possible for both teachers and learners.”
Aside from COVID-19, the loss of ABS-CBN—a staunch backer of the foundation’s work through the decades—was another blow, drastically shrinking the Knowledge Channel’s reach from a high of 7 million homes to only 2 million homes today.
“The ABS-CBN shutdown was heartbreaking for all of us at the Knowledge Channel Foundation. After the shutdown, the Knowledge Channel was left with only the cable TV platform, aside from G Sat. The shutdown also seemed to erect a political wall that was not very friendly. But all that only galvanized our will to continue to serve the Filipino and implement various steps to encourage our children to continue to learn despite the dire situation,” Lopez Bautista notes.
“This is truly a sad situation considering that with the pandemic, students must learn while at home where the Knowledge Channel’s video lessons watched from their TVs would have been the perfect solution. Combined with the DepEd- prescribed printed SLMs, our curriculumbased video lessons are the ideal tandem to make for genuine and deep learning,” Nuval says.
To help fill the void created by ABS-CBN’s absence, KCFI has bolstered ties with longstanding partners, notably Philippine Cable and Television Association (now Philippine Cable and Telecommunications Association). The relationship, which dates back to 2003, was rebuilt during the pandemic and boosted the Knowledge Channel’s presence in PCTA members’ franchise areas.
“Our newly renewed and deep relationship with the PCTA headed by its president, Joel Dabao, was jumpstarted by Creative Programs Inc. in July. It was sealed permanently on Oct. 15 with the signing of a virtual memorandum of understanding,” Nuval notes.
In the ensuing months, KCFI and the PCTA, along with cable operators and DepEd officials from four regions, sought to foster active collaboration among the stakeholders by conducting virtual road shows called “Educating Through Cable in the Time of COVID.”
Lopez Bautista reflects: “The pandemic has destroyed lives, wrought havoc to the healthcare system, livelihood, the economy and even education. It brought so much hardship to our people. But what it is forcing us to do is to work together and forge even closer partnerships and collaboration among stakeholders. Never has it been more apparent that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ It is the knowledge that we cannot and will not live and thrive unless we all come together and work as one. The partnerships we have developed and rekindled during this time, like that of the PCTA, are partnerships forged in steel and will stand the test of time.”
In the immediate future—or at least until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available—students have no choice but to cope with the realities of the pandemic and its effect upon the learning system. On the other hand, the health crisis did bring about a not unwelcome sea change—the rush to transition to online learning placed more devices and connectivity in the hands of students and teachers than before the pandemic.
Move to 21st century
“The pandemic is accelerating the move of the education system to the 21st century with new technologies and with new ways of teaching that should be more authentic—something that should have happened earlier but did not. We all need to ensure that we do not go back to the old system once the pandemic is over and that we build back our learning system better,” Lopez Bautista stresses.
Project implementation and evaluation officer Ivy Liezl Vinluan agrees: “Napilitan ang DepEd na yakapin ang makabagong pamamaraan ng pagtuturo—nang biglaan. Hindi naging madali ang naging paglukso mula sa tradisyunal na pamamaraan tungo sa tinatawag na ‘new normal.’Nakikipagtulungan ang iba’t-ibang pribadong samahan sa ating pamahalaan, katulad na lamang ng Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc. na palagiang nakasuporta sa DepEd at nakahandang maghandog ng tapat na serbisyo para sa mga mag-aaral na Pilipino. Kung wala pa ring siguradong bakuna laban sa COVID19 sa loob ng kalahating taon o higit pa, magpapatuloy lamang ang mga Pilipino sa kanilang laban—pilit na itatawid ang arawaraw na pagsungkit ng kaalaman, kahit masalimuot pa ang daan.”
And when the world finally has COVID-19 under control, the team hopes this new normal will have room for some long-overdue adjustments
“Overhaul the way the teachers teach! Everything is so different and it is upon the teachers and the education system to recognize that teaching and learning cannot happen the way it used to. Concepts must be lumped together for a more relevant and holistic view of the topics, and this was how we did our videos. Dun muna tayo sa past videos natin na pinakikita sa isang palabas ang buong theme or unit,” Calma advises.
“The digital divide between the haves and have- nots was brought to the fore by the pandemic. Sadly, the ones on the losing end of the divide are KCFI’s target beneficiaries— the disadvantaged learners enrolled in the public educational system. Hopefully, the path to fully digitize the Philippine economy will finally be properly planned and, more importantly, implemented following a strict timeline devoid of corruption. This to me is the only way to move forward,” Nuval says.
‘2020 taught us how to cope’
As the world prepares to bid a cataclysmic year goodbye, Lopez Bautista bares plans for 2021 and beyond and ruminates on the hard lessons of 2020.
“The Knowledge Channel will continue to produce and acquire videos towards providing relevant learning materials from prekindergarten to Grade 12. We will continue to widen the reach of our video lessons on various TV, online and offline platforms, ensuring that children learn deeply from them wherever they may be. We will continue to support the teachers with much needed relevant professional development programs. The Knowledge Channel will continue to partner with various stakeholders, be they individuals or organizations, from the public sector or the private sector, to do all these. We hope you will be one of our partners.
“On a personal note to each of you within the Lopez Group family, I would just like to say that 2020 has taught us many things. It taught us to be fearful, to be anxious, to be sad and to be angry. But 2020 also taught us how to cope with all these. It taught us to cherish, to love, to pray, to be grateful and to find the peace that will help us survive and thrive in this new world. As we enter 2021 and beyond, there is much work to be done to rebuild lives and institutions. While we can, let us all work hard to strengthen ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually so that we will be in an even better position to be in the service of the Filipino.”