Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking a Senate inquiry on the implementation of two laws that would help ensure reliable internet and continuous learning during emergency situations: the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act (Republic Act No. 10929) and the Open Distance Learning Act (Republic No. 10650).
In filing Proposed Resolution No. 59, Gatchalian seeks to determine the two laws’ effectiveness in education institutions and learning centers. The lawmaker also aims to identify and address implementation gaps, issues, and challenges. Gatchalian further flagged that implementing these laws remains to be a problem, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of face-to-face classes and the shift to distance learning.
The Free Internet Access in Public Places Act was enacted to provide free internet access to internet service in public places nationwide. It also provides for free Wi-Fi internet access in public basic education institutions, alternative learning system centers, state universities and colleges, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) technology institutions, among others.
Based on the Free Public Wi-Fi monitoring dashboard, however, at least 945 public basic education schools or only about two percent of public schools nationwide have free public Wi-Fi as of January 29, 2022.
The Open Distance Learning Act, on the other hand, institutionalized Open Distance Learning (ODL) to expand and further democratize access to quality tertiary education. The law mandates the use of distance education as an appropriate, efficient, and effective system of delivering quality higher and technical educational services in the country. To date, there are at least only 10 reputable higher education institutions offering distance education.
“Bagama’t meron tayong mga batas na nakatulong sana sa pagpapatupad ng distance learning, may mga pagkukulang pa rin tayong dapat punan upang matiyak ang tuloy-tuloy at dekalidad na edukasyon sa gitna ng krisis. Kailangan nating tugunan ang mga hamong ito upang matiyak natin na walang mag-aaral ang mapagkakaitan ng edukasyon sa panahon ng mga sakuna at anumang emergency situation,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.