ChildFund program targets hearing- and visually-impaired kids in Bacolod City

(Press Release)

ChildFund Philippines and CHILDInitiative have teamed up to launch a three-year project that will facilitate equitable learning for children with disabilities in Bacolod City. In partnership with ChildFund Australia, Generations Foundation, and DepEd Region VI and local school partners, Project ACHIEVE (Advancement of Children’s Inclusive Education through Virtual Engagement) aims to support children with disabilities to grow into young adults who can bring lasting change in their own communities.

Project ACHIEVE is another embodiment of ChildFund Philippines’ mission to work with partner organizations, government units, companies, and individuals to help create a safe environment for children. “Project ACHIEVE is another innovative solution that is aimed at creating a positive impact for children who need assistance,” said Dong Waña, ChildFund Philippines Program and Sponsorship Director. “This is aligned with our commitment to make inclusive, relevant, and equitable education accessible to children, especially those with disabilities.”

Among the highlights of Project ACHIEVE is the development of digital learning modules using the Moodle app. Moodle is an open-source platform for online learning, an interactive digital learning management system that enables teachers to create online courses, add assignments, and keep track of students’ progress. It also allows teachers to communicate with the students and encourage communication between them in forums and discussions. With Moodle as the platform, the modules developed under Project ACHIEVE will supplement and enrich the hybrid learning experience of children with hearing and visual impairments.

“ChildFund Philippines has been exploring ways to incorporate digital program delivery into its programs and Project ACHIEVE’s modules for learners with disabilities are among its first demonstrations,” said ChildFund Philippines Education Specialist Marlene Floresca. “We want to carefully study how this can support and improve the learning experience of school children. Eventually, we aim to reach more children while ensuring that the intervention will remain relevant and responsive to their needs.”

Floresca added that the modules through the Moodle app were intentionally designed to accommodate the learning needs of hearing and visually-impaired children. “It is intended to be a supplemental learning delivery mode that should be easily navigated by children with disabilities and their parents/ caregivers. It shall complement self-learning modules,” she shared.

Project development with experts

CHILDInitiative and ChildFund worked with experts from DepEd to form a technical working group that closely looked at technicalities and all program- and operations-related issues regarding the Moodle app as a learning management system. Select teachers in the city have undergone orientation about Quality Assurance Process and trainings for skills and knowledge on app navigation as well as course content development and uploading. A pool of consultants have also developed a user-friendly guide to the platform to serve as reference for teachers and parents.

A series of capacity strengthening activities in the form of orientations, users’ trainings, and a Viber Group Chat that served as a 24/7 online support for teachers during the eight-month period of module and instructional design development and finalization was facilitated to help prepare the educators. Regular reflection sessions with teachers were also conducted to determine bottlenecks and identify resolutions during the development process. A Technical Working Group composed of 20 members (2 male; 18 female) from the Bacolod City Division and the participating schools was formed to provide technical oversight and ensure sustainability of the project. In addition, Systems Administrators and Systems Managers were identified for the overall maintenance of the ACHIEVE learning platform.

“Project ACHIEVE will initially facilitate guided learning to 60 learners from Bacolod City,” said CHILDInitiative Executive Director John Patrick Sedantes. “The project team is continuously working with DepEd Bacolod City Division and its Learning Resource Division for the ongoing development of course content and for further technical aspects for Quality Assurance, respectively.”

Sedantes also said that within the three-year duration, Project ACHIEVE will be exclusive to select Special Education (SPED) schools. “But in the series of meetings and reflection, DepEd Bacolod City is positively looking at possible replication of the project components to other schools,” he said, adding that CHILDInitiative and its partners are also considering the possibility of scaling out the use of the learning modules and platform to regional or national level.

Achieving project goals

“The use of the Moodle app as a learning management system for our hearing and visually impaired children is something new to them,” said Reynaldo Gico, EdD, Schools Division Superintendent of Bacolod City DepEd Division. Thus, he emphasized the need for continuous training for teachers, learners, and even the children’s parents.

However, Gico underlined the convenience and effectiveness of the platform for tracking students’ learning progress. “It is convenient for teachers to create courses and the platform is interactive for students’ learning since these are children with hearing and visual impairment.”

For Bacolod City SPED Center Head Ma. Donna Pidut, Project ACHIEVE can surely achieve its goal to develop quality-assured interactive activities aligned with the competencies of Special Education Transition Curriculum and the Most Essential Learning Competencies for hearing- and visually-impaired learners.

“The digital modules developed and administered using the Moodle app can help learners gain mastery of basic competencies in literacy and numeracy skills and at the same time increase their motivation and interest in learning,” Pidut explained. “Learners and parents can benefit from a new modality of program delivery since remote distance learning started due to the ongoing pandemic.”

Learners and teachers have been commending the project since its pilot testing in the city. Teacher Revyrose Flores from Bacolod City SPED Center likes Moodle’s practical features that facilitate automated assessment, online creation of courses, and interactive activities. She also pointed out that it is easier for teachers to monitor students’ progress through the app.

A 12-year-old student named Angela also shared her thoughts about the project. “Moodle app has a lot of activities that I can work on. Colorful pictures and fun activities are the most liked,” she said. Meanwhile, Michelle Barbas, a parent of a learner, is thankful because Moodle app as a learning management system is interactive and user-friendly. “It makes it easy for me to teach my child while studying at home. The activities make her interested to finish the tasks just like playing online while learning.”

Supporting the cause

Meanwhile, ChildFund Australia has reiterated its support for the initiative that gives equal opportunity for children with disability to access quality education. “The project fosters a collaborative approach to children’s education; we like that the parents, teachers, and school systems are working together to ensure that barriers to education are addressed,” said ChildFund Australia Partnership Advisor Rouena Clemente Getigan.

“In addition, we believe that this project ensures quality intervention and has a strong chance of lasting impact because it strengthens the capacity of teachers and develops the capacity of parents to play an active role in children’s learning,” she added.

In the long run, Project ACHIEVE hopes to last beyond the three-year duration and set a template that would help educate children with disabilities in other areas, other than Bacolod City. After the project life, we are looking at the sustainability and expansion of the project. Thus, it will be needing resources like funding and manpower,” said Sedantes.

For its part, Moodle app could be used as a learning aid in similar programs. “The intention of co-developing the platform with them is to establish ownership. Upon completion, the digital learning modules will be turned over to DepEd for full system management,” Floresca concluded.