What is correspondence education?

Posted by Greten on 04 Oct 2020 under Terms

In the survey conducted by the Department of Education (DepEd, Philippines), the modular learning tops the other learning modalities with a vote of 8.8 million among the parents, followed by 3.9 million for blended learning, and only 3.8 million for online learning. Here, modular learning refers to using self-learning modules, printed materials that contain the lesson, exercises, activities, and practices. The students read and work on these learning modules on their own or with their parents' help, hoping it will bring the same learning as traditional classroom while protecting them from the Wuhan virus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic (COVID-19). The schools in which the students are enrolled will deliver the learning modules to their homes. They can pick it up in the school or designated pick-up points near their homes.

The pandemic forces us to alter the way we live and do out everyday activities: school, work, and attending religious services differently from what we're used to. Virtual classrooms and other forms of online classes are popular choices because many institutions are already conducting them even before the pandemic started. What about this modular learning? Has it been done before?

Well, the answer is yes. "Modular learning" is the term being used by DepEd probably to be able to communicate it better to parents and students. Learning modules are in use in some schools in the Philippines in lieu or supplement to textbooks. Also, many textbooks are now written as if they are learning modules, with experiments or activities every lesson or chapter. However, these learning modules still operate within the bounds of traditional classroom learning, with a teacher present to facilitate their use. The proper term for the use of learning modules brought to students' home for the purpose of self-study is "correspondence education".

Correspondence education defined

An open envelope containting three pieces of paper, the one in front explicitly labeled as school work.Correspondence education is the method of education in which the students receive the lessons, learning activities, and quizzes as modules through mail or other means of delivery, and upon completion, send the expected output to the teacher or learning institution for analysis, critique, and grading.  In some institutions, students are required to travel to the location of the learning institution to take an exam once in a while (monthly, quarterly, every semester, etc.) so it's not much of an inconvenience.

Correspondence education is the earliest form of distance education. The typical students of correspondence education are usually not school-age children (6-12 years old) but adults taking vocational courses. These students usually live in farmlands or remote towns far from schools. Similar to online education and elearning, it involves the willingness of the learner to learn. The students are motivated by sheer interest in the topic or skill they are studying, or by external rewards such as doing their jobs better, getting a promotion, or getting a higher-paying job. Hence, they can be expected to read and understand the lesson within the modules, work on the activities, answer the quizzes and exercises, and send them back to their remote instructor.

Correspondence education in the Philippines during the pandemic

Correspondence education is not new in the Philippines. It is among the modalities used by the Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the DepEd. However, ALS students are usually adults who failed to finished basic education at the appropriate age due to poverty or some other life circumstances. Still, it's not much different from the other forms of distance education where the students are adults who are willing to learn.

Using correspondence education on school-age children has so many challenges, including:

  • Unlike adult learners, school-age children are usually not that willing to learn. Some have a strong interest in learning, but many are not. They cannot readily process the possible consequences if they did not study, such as not getting a good job twenty years later. In a traditional classroom, going to school is taken as a command from parents that they must follow, and whatever they have to do within the school are order from teachers. In a home-based correspondence education using printed modules, the teachers are not present to command or guide them. The parent may command the school-age children to study, which is the point of the next bullet.
  • The parents may ask their children to dedicate time to their modular studies instead of playing all day, but not all parents can guide their children. One of the possible reasons is that the parents themselves didn't finish basic education. They can command, but they have no means to verify if their children are indeed working on their studies.
  • There are suggestions to send teachers to students' homes to guide them in their use of learning modules, especially those whose parents cannot guide them. However, this will defeat the whole purpose of closing the schools and resorting to different modalities of distance education, that is, to prevent the spread of the pandemic. It's possible for a teacher to visit a student where some family members are already infected with the SARS-CoV-2. The teacher then got infected and later visited another student's home where a family member is an elderly or has underlying medical conditions. Moreover, many teachers do not agree with this because DepEd has no budget for teachers' hospitalization if they got infected.

Correspondence education is the use of mail or other delivery methods to send learning materials to remote students and to receive learning output, such as answered quizzes and exercises from them. The learning materials are printed in a bundle of physical papers called learning modules. Correspondence education has been in use for decades for adult learners. Due to the ongoing pandemic, some school-age children are going to use correspondence education this school year.


  • Burns M. (2011) "Print-based Distance Education", Distance Education for Teacher Training: Modes, Models, and Methods (Education Development Center, Washington DC), pp. 12–17, retrieved 10 October 2020
  • Department of Education(n.d.) "About alternative learning system", Department of Education, Philippines, retrieved 4 October 2020.
  • Department of Education(2020) "Official statement on LESF", Department of Education, Philippines, retrieved 4 October 2020.
  • IndiaEducation (n.d.) "Correspondence Education - Introduction", IndiaEducation, retrieved 4 October 2020
  • Moore M. and Kearly G. (2005) "First Generation: A Brief History of Correspondence Study", Distance Education: A Systems View, II (Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 2005), pp. 24–30

Last updated on 04 Oct 2020.

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