By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to find ways that learners who have no access to the Internet and learning tablets, be able to continue their education.
Gatchalian said the DepEd should ensure that no learner would be left behind even as the DepEd mulls an online-based education for the next school year in the event of a prolonged crisis due to COVID-19.
“Bagama’t mahalaga ang papel ng online o distant learning sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon, kailangan nating siguruhin na patuloy din ang pag-aaral para sa mga hindi nakakagamit ng internet. Walang mag-aaral ang dapat maiwan. (Though online and distant learning has a greater role in the continuing of education, let’s make sure that students who have no access to the Internet would be able to continue studying as well. Leave no learner behind),” said Gatchalian, who chairs the
Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.
Last March 17, the DepEd launched the online platform “DepEd Commons,” which allows public school teachers to support distant learning, give access to online review materials, and use Open Educational Resources (OERs).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines OERs as digital and non-digital teaching, learning and research materials in the public domain, which have been released under an open license. This allows no-cost access, use, adaptation, and non-restricted redistribution.
Since the DepEd Commons was launched, it now has more than 3.1 million users. There are 27.2 million learners and 840,000 public school teachers nationwide.
DepEd, however, acknowledged that not all learners can access these platforms and materials.
The senator said the DepEd should target those in more than 7,000 “Last Mile Schools” in geographically isolated, disadvantaged, and conflict-affected areas, noting these schools tend to have less than five teachers and 100 learners, 75 percent of whom are indigenous peoples.
He also emphasized the need to cover more than 600,000 learners enrolled in the Alternative Learning System (ALS), a parallel learning system for those who do not have access to formal education.
Gatchalian said this is an area, which the DepEd must not abandon especially that the most vulnerable to this pandemic “belong to the same socioeconomic group as our ALS learners.”
He also urged the DepEd to increase and maximize the use and distribution of non-digital OERs. In the months leading to the opening of classes, he said DepEd should ensure the preparedness of students, teachers, and parents in using their distant learning materials.
He also said that once the enhanced community quarantine is lifted in Luzon, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should accelerate the provision of internet in more public spaces under Republic Act 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Spaces Act.
The law calls for the provision of free Internet in public spaces such as basic education institutions, state universities and colleges (SUCs), technical and vocational institutions, and public health facilities, among others.