MANILA — Online classes in public schools may have to take a back seat in the first grading period due to infrastructure "capacity issues" and the "preference of households," Department of Education (DepEd) officials said Wednesday.
"In the first quarter, online, TV and radio are supplementary," DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan told members of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
"The use of tech also has a mix of capacity issue as well as a preference issue by the households," he said.
While some local governments, especially in Metro Manila, have been distributing free tablets and laptops to students, internet connectivity remains an issue in the country, Sen. Pia Cayetano said.
"Those who have invested in digital technologies have found na wala din talagang (that there is really no) connectivity for their constituents right now," she said.
"Anything beyond the National Capital Region, mas choppy pa 'yung connection. The infrastructure by telcos, the national government, and private industries in putting the needed infrastructure has not happened," she said.
The Philippines' average internet speed ranges from 3-7 Mbps, while neighboring countries in the region enjoy up to 55 Mbps, according to data from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
The DICT said the lack of telecommunications infrastructure in the country was to blame for the slow internet speed as numerous fiber optic cables and cell sites are needed for faster connection.
Malaluan said the tablets distributed by local governments would not go to waste as students residing in areas with good internet connection could still use the devices to download learning materials from DepEd Commons, the agency's online repository of modules.
"It will not be pure online [in public schools] as the private schools are able to do, but even a component of the blended learning with asynchronous online [activities] will be very helpful," the official said.
DepEd officials said the department has printed 98.83 percent of self-learning modules needed for the first quarter of the school year, and is set to distribute some 1 million devices for public school students.
The 1 million devices account for only 2 percent of the country's total student population.
The DepEd said they expect 15 million learners to access online modules through personal devices.
Education officials have yet to say when they would finish printing the self-learning modules for the second grading period.