Senator Win Gatchalian is appealing to telecommunication giants Globe Telecom and Smart Communications to provide all learners with free connectivity to help in the roll-out of distance learning for the reopening of classes.
While modular distance learning or the use of printed and digital self-learning modules is the most preferred learning modality among enrolled learners, Gatchalian emphasized that accelerating the provision of connectivity to all learners is a step to ensure equity in access to learning opportunities in the ‘new normal’. He added that bridging the digital divide should be part of the country’s recovery efforts to ‘build back better’ from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To achieve internet coverage in all of the country’s 42,046 barangays, Gatchalian earlier urged telecommunication companies to install cell sites in public schools. He noted that since there is a public school in every barangay, they serve as viable spots for cell sites that would ensure nationwide internet access.
The lawmaker also said that providing connectivity to learners in ‘Last Mile Schools’ is crucial to ensuring that no learner is left behind amid the pandemic. Last Mile Schools are those located in geographically isolated, disadvantaged, and conflict-affected areas. These schools tend to have less than five teachers and 100 learners, 75 percent of whom are indigenous peoples.
Based on the readiness report of the DepEd, more than 3 million learners prefer online learning compared to 7.3 million who prefer modular distance learning as an alternative learning modality for the opening of classes. More than 1.2 million prefer television-based instruction while 638,213 prefer to use radio.
The same report revealed that almost 2.9 million learners have available internet connection at home, while more than 1.8 million have no available gadgets such as laptop, desktop, and even radio or television.
“Bagama’t hindi natin itinuturing na hadlang ang kawalan ng internet upang patuloy na makapag-aral ang mga estudyante sa gitna ng pandemya, kailangang pagsikapan nating maabot ang bawat bata at bigyan sila ng pagkakataong matuto gamit ang makabagong mga pamamaraan,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
“Kung ang bawat mag-aaral ay makakagamit ng internet, isang mahalagang hakbang ito upang makabangon ang ating sistema ng edukasyon mula sa epekto ng COVID-19, gawin itong mas matatag sa panahon ng kalamidad, at masigurong walang batang maiiwan,” he added.
Through Senate Bill No. 1565 or the ‘Education in the New Normal Act,’ Gatchalian is also seeking to accelerate the roll-out of Republic Act No.10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, which aims to install free wi-fi in public places, including elementary and secondary public schools.