Amid the nationwide celebration of the National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Month, Senator Win Gatchalian continues his push for the digital transformation of the country’s basic education sector.
Gatchalian outlined his proposal in the Digital Transformation of Basic Education Act (Senate Bill No. 383), which aligns with the mandate of Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act. The proposed measure mandates the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to accelerate the installation, deployment, and activation of free public Wi-Fi in all public basic education institutions.
During last year’s deliberations on the 2023 national budget, Gatchalian flagged that only 1.8% or only 860 public schools of the country’s 47,421 public schools have free public Wi-Fi as of September 2, 2022. This is according to the Free Public Wi-Fi Dashboard.
Gatchalian also reiterated how the digital divide hit hardest on learners from low-income households during the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 World Bank survey on low-income households revealed that only 40% have access to the internet. The same survey also revealed that 95.5% of these households used paper-based learning modules and materials.
To escalate the building of the national infrastructure for ICT, the bill also mandates the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to identify locations for the construction of telecommunications tower sites, which will prioritize unconnected, unserved, or underserved areas.
The Department of Education (DepEd) shall also mandate all schools to enhance and strengthen schools’ ICT capacity to implement distance learning. To improve traditional teaching and learning processes and boost the basic education sector towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will assist both the DepEd and the DICT on the use of science, technology, and innovation.
“Matapos ang karanasan natin noong kasagsagan ng pandemya, nakita nating hindi na natin maaaring ipagpaliban pa ang modernisasyon at digitalization sa sektor ng edukasyon upang walang mag-aaral ang mapag-iiwanan. Patuloy nating isusulong ang mga panukalang batas upang palawakin ang paggamit ng teknolohiya sa ating mga paaralan upang matiyak ang patuloy na edukasyon sa lahat sa gitna ng mga krisis,” said Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
Gatchalian also filed several measures to accelerate digitalization in the basic education sector such as the Philippine Online Library Act (Senate Bill No. 477), the Public School Database Act (Senate Bill No. 478), and the One Learner, One Laptop Act (Senate Bill No. 474).