From Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.
This year will be remembered as the year the global Coronavirus Pandemic changed our lives. It will also be remembered as the year Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) shifted to online education.
To date, the Coronavirus worldwide has infected, 4,137,143 people, killing 285,760. In the Philippines it has infected 11,096, killing 726, many of them doctors and nurses. In Davao Region, it has infected 90 people as of April 11, 2020, 74 of which are in Davao. In Davao, it has killed 14 people.
The Coronavirus could have killed more. It could have killed more of our relatives and friends. It could have totally overwhelmed our relatively weak public health infrastructure to handle the many cases. But our government and our health officials on national and local levels acted resolutely. The quarantines imposed stopping travel from infected areas, prescribing the isolation of the infected, contract tracing, strict social distance, frequent handwashing, the use of face masks and proper cough and sneezing etiquette lessened the pressure on our front-liners and saved countless lives in our vulnerable archipelago. Until a vaccine is developed, the quarantines and social distance are our only defense against the killer virus.
ADDU Shift to Online Education
With the early impositions of quarantine, Mayor Sara Duterte declared, “All public and private educational institutions should prepare for online enrolment and the possibility of online classes for the months of April to July 2020” (E.O. 20, March 26, 2020). As the Coronavirus, however, began to affect more and more countries, including our own country and city, while the possibility of a vaccine was foreseen only for 2021 or beyond, it became very clear to us at ADDU that the only way to continue our mission as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University for Mindanao was online.
ADDU administrators, faculty, and students came together to make the shift.
Planning of online classes and training of faculty began immediately. As of today 593 of our teachers have been trained in using two major online learning platforms, Google Classroom and Moodle. Training of other teachers is still ongoing.
On March 26, top administrators came together with top leaders of the Samahan ng Mag-aaral ng Pamantasan ng Ateneo de Davao, the student government of undergraduate higher education. The Samahan expressed their apprehensions to online learning. Administration answered with its general plans of online learning. It was clear, things would not always be perfect. But problems could be met through dialogue and concrete action. A partnership was forged between the administration and the students for online education.
On April 2, the Academic Vice President issued a Primer of Academic Policies for Online Undergraduate Education based on close consultation with academic administrators. Using this as a base, similar Primers were formulated by the Senior High School, the Junior High School and Grade School by April 27. The Primers prescribe an Online Instructional Delivery Plan for each course, how the instructors are to upload course material, interact with the students, assess their performance, and how the classes are to be monitored for quality. The classes must achieve if not surpass the minimum standards in learning outcomes prescribed by the CHED or the DepEd for the class. In basic education, the primers also define the role of the parent of the responsible adult in the learning process of the child.
The academic program is complemented by online programs of the chaplain, campus ministry (now: cyber-ministry), formation and guidance online. Our aim is not to create internet nerds, but to develop professionally competent whole persons fortes in fide – strong in faith.
Summer classes commenced on April 22. 1722 students enrolled in 178 classes involving 90 instructors. As a result of our dialogue with our students, home prepaid WiFi devices of Globe and Smart were distributed despite the enhanced community quarantine to each of the students. Apple iPADs, solicited from donors, were loaned to scholars and financially challenged students. Computer loans were extended to students.
It was reported on national news that Ateneo de Davao University was the first to shift to online classes due to the Coronavirus crisis. We enjoyed the support and the praise of the City of Davao, the CHED, and the DepEd. We have begun enrolling students from outside Davao and from other countries.
Meanwhile, university research and outreach, as essential to the life of a university as instruction is, will continue. Part of the research agenda would be the process documentation of the shift to online learning, research on the experience of teachers and students in this shift, and studies on best practices in the world with which ADDU might benchmark and improve its delivery.
Outreach would continue to respond to the needs of front-liners in the war against the Coronavirus, advocate social justice, inter-religious dialogue, peace in Mindanao, and the value of such as Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si. We will now also advocate Internet access as a human right, and in our new normal of pervading quarantines, encourage community quarantine enterprises (CQE) “from home”.
A Stronger Ateneo de Davao University
In all this, we are not saying we do not value traditional face-to-face instruction. We do. We value deeply how learning is especially in Philippine culture encouraged by healthy socialization. When the pandemic is overcome, we will go back to them.
But even as we go back to them, we will be different. We will be stronger because of what we now confidently undertake. We will then have access to a treasure of global learning resources that are already available. Our teachers will be practiced in accessing them. They will increasingly understand how digital instruction is best applied in our Mindanao context. We will blend face-to-face learning with online learning and move in the direction of an open university.
We will also be dealing with a stronger student. They shall be students more in touch with their driving desires in learning, able to set learning goals for themselves, understand their personal paces of learning, work with competent coaches to encourage and guide their learning to success, even as they are formed in moderating screen time, social skills, social values and in leadership skills. Our students will know how to use digital learning resources not only for their sojourn at the Ateneo, but for life-long learning. This is extremely important as the world of academe merges with the world of work – and responds to the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.
All this will enfold. We are excited.
Partnering with Parents to Keep their Children Studying
Even as we know that as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic many of our parents are hurting. The crisis has adversely affected the entire Philippine economy, even as efforts to restart the economy now are fraught with serious dangers. For without a vaccine, our major protection against infection is physical distancing.
Before the crisis, our Board of Trustees approved an increase of from six to ten percent for SY 2020-21 in tuition and fees. A day before yesterday, our Board of Trustees met online in order to help our parents. They resolved, first, to revise the budget to cancel the increases in tuition and fees. Secondly, in the context of the present shift to online learning, they resolved to allow management, depending on the needs of the units, to discount fees from 15% to 23%. Without the scheduled increases in tuition and fees, this means that parents would be paying from 21% to up to 33% less than what ADDU had planned to charge for this academic year.
All this, however, had an adverse effect on our four unions. Our collective bargaining agreements commit the university to regular across-the-board increases. These increases are sustainable only through increases in tuition and fees.
Yesterday our administration met with the leaders of our four unions. I deeply appreciate that understanding the situation, our union leaders magnanimously agreed to support the resolutions of the Board, thereby accepting that for this academic year they are giving up their across-the-board increases.
Even as we have cancelled our 6% to 10% scheduled increases in tuition, the schedule of discounts on fees based on academic levels is as follows:
It may be appreciated that in order to further help our parents who may need this, the enrolment of students or learners at Ateneo de Davao this year can succeed on as low as ten percent down payment of assessed tuition and fees, with the balance payable before the final summative exam for the enrolled course. The final exam can be taken at the end of the course, or postponed to up to one year after the end of the course.
We offer these substantial reductions to you in partnership. We value your valuing education for your children even in a crisis such as this.
In partnership, we ask that you appreciate that these reductions are not without risk for us. Our salaries depend on tuition payments; salaries cannot be paid in installment. Our ability to carry out our university mission depends on fees. In partnership we ask:
Enroll your children now. Classes in SY 2020-21 begin on June 22. Enrolment is ongoing. Please do not delay till the end of the enrolment period which is ongoing and ends absolutely on June 27. We have an array of online payment options.
But we realize that online paying takes time. Because of this, we ask you to enroll your children now.
For your convenience, we are also setting up a drive-through payment option where you can pay us in cash while ensuring your safety and health as well as our employees.
If you can pay in full, please pay in full. If you can pay in part, pay the largest part that is possible to you. This will help us to welcome those who can only pay in small parts. For those that pay in part, our Finance Office will remind you of the other part that needs to be paid.
Thank You for Your Continued Trust
Your trust in the Ateneo de Davao way of education has allowed ADDU to educate generations of Ateneans since 1948. Thank you for your continued trust. Thank you for your prayers.
We face an exciting year. Our time-tested basic education programs, and our higher education courses in humanities and letters, social sciences, computer studies, natural science and mathematics, accounting, business management, entrepreneurship, education, nursing, engineering, architecture, and law will continue. We are continuing our aerospace engineering course now under the chairmanship of the renowned astrophysicist, Dr. Rogel Mari Sese. As announced earlier, we are launching programs in BS Data Science, BS Robotics Engineering, AB Development Studies, and AB Anthropology. But with the professional courses we will continue to form our students in humanities and in leadership – fortes in fide, strong in faith – the Ateneo de Davao way.