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Law on providing laptop, connectivity for every public school learner needed

Senator Win Gatchalian eyes introducing legislation that will give every public school learner a laptop and access to the internet.


VALENZUELA CITY, Philippines – A public school student waits for a stable connection to access a local online learning platform, while his younger brother (right) reads his self-learning module (SLM) at their home, 5 Oct. 2020. After introducing a law that abolished tuition fees in government colleges and universities, Senator Win Gatchalian is now lobbying a measure that will give every public school learner a laptop and access to the internet. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

To emphasize the urgency of this planned measure, Gatchalian pointed to a finding by assessment instruments provider Center for Educational Measurement (CEM) on the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which revealed that access to computers and internet at home affects student performance.

According to CEM, around 60 percent of learners who participated in the PISA did not have access to computers and connectivity at home. The proportion of learners without computers and internet is much higher in the lower proficiency groups compared to higher proficiency groups, CEM’s analysis points out.

Results of the PISA 2018 showed that out of 79 countries, the Philippines ranked lowest in Reading Comprehension and second lowest in Science and Mathematics.

Gatchalian also pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic also underscored the need to make distance learning part of the norm to avoid prolonged disruptions to education, especially in times of calamities, emergencies, and crises.

“After this pandemic, laptops and access to the internet are basic requirements to learning. No child should be left behind simply because he or she cannot have access to gadgets and the internet. That’s a challenge for our government,” said the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

“Now the basic question is ‘who will pay for it?’ because affordability becomes an issue and that’s what we are trying to solve right now. I think there is no question that learners should have a laptop and access to the internet now, not ten or fifteen years from now. And we would like to formulate a law wherein we will give every child, every learner a laptop and access to the internet,” Gatchalian added.

Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) shows that 87 percent of more than 22 million public school learners are using self-learning modules (SLMs). DepEd admits, however, that the use of SLMs are costly and result in the build-up of waste. The DepEd also reported that some 3.6 million learners have access to the internet while 1.9 million have laptops.

Gatchalian also pointed out that despite the availability of high-quality DepEd TV episodes online, its YouTube channel only has around 59,000 subscribers, which shows the need to reach millions more.

The lawmaker made a similar observation in Valenzuela, which launched the Valenzuela Live Online Streaming School or Valenzuela Live for distance learning. Despite the streaming of videos through Facebook Live, Gatchalian shared that 3,000 out of the expected 10,000 viewers were not able to watch the lessons because of unstable connection and lack of gadgets.