By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed on Wednesday, June 3, the offer of state-owned Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) to use its television facilities as a remote learning platform.
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, said the proposal should enable the Department of Education (DepEd) to air curriculum-based programs when schools reopen on August 24, 2020.
He had earlier urged the education department to explore alternative means to ensure continued learning process of students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such alternative modes should ensure the safety of the students and without unnecessarily putting additional burden on the part of their parents, he added.
“Gamitin ang teknolohiya na available para sa distance learning tulad ng pagkakaroon ng virtual classrooms. May airtime rin na allotted for educational programs ayon sa batas, pwede po itong gamitin bilang alternative mode of teaching and learning (Let us use available technologies for distance learning such as virtual classrooms. The law allots airtime for educational programs that could be used as alternative mode of teaching and learning),” he stated.
The senator from Davao cited Republic Act No. 8370, the Children’s Television Act of 1997, which requires a minimum of 15 percent of a network’s daily total air time to programs that further children’s positive development.
Go also called for a review of teaching strategies that were based on new technology while taking into consideration the availability of the Internet. The use of broadcast media would ensure a more inclusive access to learning by allowing students without Internet access to participate.
“Hindi naman po lahat ng kabataan may access sa Internet o smart phones. Malaking tulong kung magamit ang ‘free TV’ para sa edukasyon (Not all children have access to the Internet or smart phones. The ‘free TV’ will be a big help in our education),” he said.
In his latest report to Congress, President Duterte revealed that the satellite television industry is in active dialogue with the government regarding remote learning opportunities.
Go said the government also aims to use the state-owned IBC-13 to air curriculum-based television programs to students in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said the network, currently underutilized, would require a P100-million investment to widen its reach.
“Ayaw po nating maantala ang klase, ngunit prayoridad natin lagi ang kaligtasan at kalusugan ng mga Pilipino (We don’t want to delay the holding of school classes but the priority is the safety and health of all Filipinos),” he said.
He has staunchly backed President Duterte’s call not to permit face-to-face learning until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.
“We will take this one step at a time so that we can slowly, but surely, protect the safety of our students. ‘Wag natin biglain. Let’s assess first what happens in the coming days. Iba’t ibang linggo, iba’t ibang araw ay meron pong posibleng mangyari. Kahit ayaw nating maantala ang klase nila, importanteng safe sila (Let us not rush things. Different weeks, different days may offer possible developments. While we don’t want classes delayed, they should be safe),” Go cautioned.
He noted that the use of broadcast media would enable rural schools, which often lacked an adequate supply of teachers and classrooms, to accommodate more students, including the beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program.
“Paghandaan natin kung papaano magpapatuloy ang ating pamumuhay sa panahon ng ‘new normal’. Maglatag na po tayo ng kailangang policies and protocols. Siguraduhin nating makapag-aral ang kabataan habang patuloy nating nilalabanan ang COVID-19 (Let us prepare for a life under a ‘new normal’ condition. We should roll out necessary policies and protocols. Let us ensure that our students should be able to learn while the government tries to contain the spread of COVID-19),” he said.
Go filed Senate Bill No. 396 months after being elected as senator, which seeks to amend the Local Government Code of 1991 by expanding the application of the Special Education Fund (SEF) taken from the additional 1 percent on real property tax.
The bill will enable local government units (LGUs) to the SEF to operate Alternative Learning System (ALS) programs as well as provide the salaries, allowances, and other benefits of ALS facilitators.