MANILA - Senate Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education chair Joel Villanueva on Tuesday urged colleges and higher learning institutions to avoid forcing students to shift to online learning, saying not all students have access to gadgets and the internet.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) earlier pushed for a mix of face-to-face and online classes to avoid spreading the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in schools, but President Rodrigo Duterte banned all physical classes while there is still no vaccine against the highly contagious disease.
"Not all students have access to the internet and even to laptops and related equipment that's why it would be morally wrong to mandate everyone to shift to online learning," Villanueva told ABS-CBN News in a text message when asked for comment.
"We all agree, however, that learning must continue, and our government should be able to bridge gaps between students, faculty, and higher education institutions," he said.
Villanueva earlier urged the government to have a "credit facility" so parents and students can avail of interest-free loans to procure gadgets needed for online learning while the pandemic persists.
"We remain committed to this proposal," the senator said, noting that the policy was included in the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill, which failed to hurdle Congress due to Malacañang's failure to certify it as urgent.
CHED earlier asked the National Telecommunications Commission to provide free online educational resources for students. The agency also asked lawmakers to consider a voucher system for students whose migrant worker parents lost their jobs due to the global pandemic.
Villanueva's Committee will convene next week to discuss how higher education stakeholders "can move forward" during the global pandemic.
Among the solutions being considered are the granting of "incomplete" marks instead of failing grades for students who cannot comply with blended learning requirements, and the allocation of more funds for state universities and colleges and other higher education institutions, the senator said.
"Just as how we should invest heavily on our workers as we prepare our labor force into the new normal, our government should likewise do the same for our education sector," Villanueva said.
Senate Committee on Basic Education chair Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian gave a similar comment last week, saying students in pre-school, elementary and high school should not be forced to go online for classes.