By Mario Casayuran
Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid today sought an inquiry, in aid of legislation, to determine the feasibility of mandating telecommunications companies (telcos) to provide free internet access to online learning portals, educational websites and similar digital platforms.
Lapid explained that the free internet service aims to benefit all students and teachers during times of disaster and emergency when physical classes cannot be conducted.
In his Senate Resolution 416, Lapid cited the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which resulted to abrupt and unprecedented closure of schools and educational institutions for all levels of learning throughout the country.
As the educational system struggles to catch up, many schools from primary to tertiary level have resorted to online or virtual classes in order to deliver the lessons to students, conduct tests and provide other educational requirements.
“Sa mga panahon ng kalamidad at emergency gaya na lamang ng hinaharap nating pandemya, mahalagang may malakas at maaasahang internet service ang ating mga estudyante at mga guro. Sa ganitong paraan lamang masisiguro na magtutuloy-tuloy ang kanilang pag-aaral at pagkatuto. Alam nating matagal pa babalik ang nakagawiang face-to-face o physical classes kaya sa online classes nakadepende ang ating mga estudyante para hindi titigil ang paglinang sa kanilang kaalaman,” Lapid said. (During crises and emergency situations like the current pandemic, it is necessary that there is a strong and reliable internet service for our students and teachers. Since we know that the usual face-to-face classes may not return soon, students will be dependent on online classes so that their education will not be disrupted.)
Lapid pointed out that it is necessary to determine the feasibility of government partnering with telecommunication companies to provide free internet access whenever students and teachers log-in, visit and use online learning portals. Free internet will also be a requirement for students who will need to use online libraries, educational websites and similar digital platforms during times when physical classes cannot be conducted.
For the incoming school year 2020-2021, the Department of Education (DepEd) decided to push back the resumption of classes to August 24, but the mode of learning will not necessarily be a traditional face-to-face learning classroom. This means that there will be schools that will be forced to implement alternative learning delivery modalities such as online classes.
Meanwhile, in the tertiary level, universities and colleges with capacity to conduct full online classes can proceed with their schedule any time while institutions who adopt flexible learning system can open by August 2020.
“Sa mga susunod na buwan lalo’t habang narito pa ang banta ng COVID-19 sa ating bansa, malinaw na ang sistema ng pagtuturo ay nakasalalay sa mekanismo ng online classes, online activities, projects at assignments. Ibig sabihin mangangailangan ang mga estudyante ng malakas at mabilis na internet para makasabay sa hinihinging pagbabago sa kanilang pag-aaral, pero paano naman makakasabay ang mahihirap na estudyante kung hindi libre ang internet? Maging ang mga guro ay mahihirapan makapasok sa digital platforms kung ang internet ay kailangan pang bayaran,” Lapid added. (As the pandemic will likely continue to grip the country in the next coming months, it is clear that the mode of education would be dependent on online classes, online activities, projects and assignments. While many students would be dependent on strong and reliable internet services, how about the poor students? Even teachers would have difficulty entering digital platforms that they still have to pay.)
Lapid also emphasized that during calamities and emergencies, expenses and fees relative to internet subscription are not a priority, especially for poor households or those families whose income-earners are forced out of work or business.
The senator also lauded the Education department’s initiative in establishing DepEd Commons which is an online delivery platform designed as an alternative mode for teaching-learning process during class suspensions and other similar circumstances.
DepEd for its part was also able to partner with certain telecommunications companies to give teachers and learners free internet access to the website.#