Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a bill that seeks to accelerate the digital transformation of the basic education sector, one of his 20 priority measures for the 19th Congress.
Under Gatchalian’s proposal, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will accelerate the installation, deployment, and activation of free public Wi-Fi in all public basic education institutions. This is in compliance with the mandate of Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act to strengthen teaching and learning even in remote areas by creating a free public internet access program that will provide free access to internet service in public places throughout the country. Based on the most recent data from the Free Public Wi-Fi monitoring dashboard, there are at least 945 public basic education schools with free public Wi-Fi constituting only about 2% of all public schools in the country.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the nationwide digital divide and the need for innovative teaching methods for learning continuity. He recalled that for School Year 2020-2021, the first year of distance learning, up to 87 percent of public school learners relied on self-learning modules.
Senate Bill No. 383 also seeks to escalate the building of the national infrastructure for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) by mandating the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to identify locations for the construction of telecommunications tower sites. Priority will be given to missionary areas which remain unconnected, unserved, or underserved.
Under the bill, the Department of Education (DepEd) shall mandate all schools to enhance and strengthen their ICT capacity to implement distance learning. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will assist both the DepEd and the DICT on the use of science, technology, and innovation to improve traditional teaching and learning processes and boost the basic education sector towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Isusulong natin ang digital transformation ng sektor ng edukasyon upang matiyak na ang bawat paaralan sa bansa ay konektado sa internet. Naniniwala akong kahit matapos na ang pandemya, magiging bahagi na ng new normal ang blended learning, kaya naman dapat palawigin natin ang paggamit ng teknolohiya upang makapaghatid ng dekalidad na edukasyon,” said Gatchalian.
For Gatchalian, education in the new normal will utilize a mix of face-to-face classes, online learning, and other modalities. He added that this is crucial to ensure learning continuity even amidst disasters and other calamities.