MANILA - As the Philippines is forced to adopt online education due to the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a number of challenges in implementing this mode of learning were identified during a meeting Monday between lawmakers and officials of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
With most Filipino households in rural areas without internet connection, Sorsogon 1st District Rep. Evelina Escudero asked DICT Undersecretary Manny Caintic when the agency plans to install connections in such areas.
"Do you have a timeline when you will be putting connections dito sa mga rural barangays? Ayaw natin maantala yung kanilang learning capacity kung walang internet. Take the case of Sorsogon," said Escudero at the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology meeting.
Caintic said providing internet will take time.
"As to the timeline, I will get back to you on that. But the more realistic, at least immediately in this year, is to give as many access to our Tech4Ed Centers and to schools," he said.
Caintic explained that students can go to Tech4Ed Centers and barangay health centers by schedule to download content.
"Then go home, do your assignments, do the work and then go back and then upload. The same will go for teachers, as well as for students," said Caintic.
He added it is the most realistic plan the DICT can implement in remote areas not covered by the telcos.
But he said the department is doubling its efforts to help telcos create more towers. By the end of this year, it hopes the telcos to have expanded their coverage.
For areas with good signals and cables already in place, the DICT hopes to partner with local ISPs (Internet Service Providers).
"Baka sila ang pwede mag-distribute. We can encourage the telcos to extend the zero rating for certain websites like DepEd and CHED (Commission on Higher Education) para yun mga yun libre ang content, as long as educational," Caintic said.
Committee Chair Victor Yap, meanwhile, suggested that Zoom be used in densely populated cities with good internet connection.
The challenge in digital educational is training, said Caintic.
"The DICT will invest heavily on training the teachers. Mahirap po magturo. It is hard to scribble using a mouse. Hindi po madali magturo ng Algebra kung mahirapan kang mag-scribble ng x squared plus y squared," he said.
Aside from this, they would also have to invest on the teachers.
"We have to teach our teachers how to teach. But we also have to give them teaching paraphernalia, which is our effort this year. Hopefully, next year, makakapagbigay tayo ng tablets so that teachers can actually do the Math scribbling," he said.
The DICT is expecting to start building its digital connectivity and access next year.
"We are asking for a considerable amount for digital learning. Now, the focus is not so much in transforming the classroom, but allowing our teachers to be able to teach online and our kids to learn onilne," he said.
Yap said he fully supports DICT's initiatives, but explained the budget that the DICT is asking for will have to be presented to the economic team.
The spread of the coronavirus has disrupted the way of life, forcing people to stay at home. To adjust to the new normal, the DepEd discouraged holding of in-person classes to avoid exposing students, educators and school personnel to the risk of contracting COVID-19.