The disruption of education caused by the pandemic has affected learners and teachers worldwide. When the first news of a new virus broke towards the end of 2019, no one cared or knew how much the effects would be. At the beginning of 2020 cases, not only from where the virus originated, began to rise, people started to be terrified to the point of buying all the tissue paper and alcohol or sanitizer they could get ahold of. Several news, fake and real began to emerge here and there. Lockdowns in several countries commenced and people started to realize that this ‘thing’ was for REAL.
Cambodia was quite different. People still lived as if nothing was happening despite breaking news all over the world regarding the virus. Not even when the first positive case- recorded in January, moved the government of Cambodia. It was only in March, when a series of positive cases were detected that the Ministry of Education, with orders from the Prime Minister, suspended classes of all levels indefinitely.
The Ministry of Education then encouraged schools to shift from onsite classes to online classes. The challenge was great in terms of internet connection since Cambodia has probably one of the slowest internet speeds in the word, along with power interruptions here and there and the unavailability of gadgets to be utilized for online learning.
Amidst all of this, most schools using the School of Tomorrow system here in Cambodia shifted to online classes . It was a big adjustment but since PACEs (modules) are used, it was not difficult to prepare for the lessons. After the announcement on the suspension was made, learning materials were prepared and at the beginning, parents were asked to pick them up. A good number of PACEs were issued to each student, just enough to keep them busy for a month. Different platforms such as ZOOM, Skype, Messenger, and Google classroom were used to conduct online devotions, goal checking, scoring, Checkups, Self Tests and lecture classes. Scoring and completing Checkups and Self Tests were done video calls with the teacher and showing the page that needed to be scored or students dictating the answers to the teacher. PACE Tests were also done differently. In one case, students who are ready for the test would make a call with their “adviser” or teacher-in-charge and be administered an oral test. In other cases, tests were modified and entered into an App called “ClassMarker” and the test was administered online. But for most, since there were no strict restrictions, students were given schedules to come to school to take their tests and get more materials for themselves. This online set-up went on until the end of the school year. Graduations and closing programs for some schools were done “Virtually’. The same method continued as the new school year opened. This time around, students of not more than groups of 15 were allowed to come to school on shifting schedules observing strict safety/health protocols.
The biggest challenge during this period was the procurement of PACEs and supplies from the Philippines. Before the pandemic, most schools would order materials from SOT and would channel the delivery through mission teams or individuals from the Philippines coming or visiting Cambodia to lessen freight expenses. But due to the lockdown and the travel and immigration restrictions imposed here in Cambodia, that method was halted and the probability of ordering lessened. Some schools recycled what they had, at times borrowing materials from other schools, or resorted to copying for emergency use.
We also saw several students who had to leave school because of the crisis. Missionary families were recalled by their Mission Boards, parents lost their jobs, and a few international students returned to their respective countries.
All of this and other things happened during the onslaught of the pandemic but we just praise God– He is still in control. Though a series of class suspensions transpired in 2020, SOT schools in Cambodia are still strong promulgating Christian education. The School of Tomorrow system has been very helpful for such a time as this. Again, it was proven, School Of Tomorrow REALLY WORKS!!!