Is distance learning possible by August 24? Solons doubt it

Published June 26, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

House leaders expressed serious doubt Friday if the Department of Education’s (DepEd) “distance learning” blueprint for students which starts when school opens on August 24 is doable, at least on a large scale.

This, after Department of Information of Communications Technology (DICT) Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Caintic bared during a virtual hearing of the House Committee on Information and Communication Technology that the agency could only provide Internet to “between 2,000 and 3,000” basic education schools in the next two months.

Caintic admitted that the figure is a “very small percentage” of the country’s 43,000 basic education schools, which will be forced to tap online methods for this coming school year due to Malacañang’s prohibition on face-to-face instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tarlac 2nd district Rep. Victor Yap, committee chairman, underscored the need to ensure connectivity also at the homes of the pupils, or else all efforts from DiCT and DepEd would be for naught.

“Kahit malagyan lahat ng eskwelahan, kung hindi papapasukin, sa bahay wala namang [Internet], wala rin (Even if all schools get connection, but if students would stay at home where there’s no Internet, it’s going to be useless), Yap said.

“I don’t see August 24 as a reality happening,” the former provincial governor bluntly added. Ironically, Yap lost connectivity several times during the meeting due to poor signal from his location.

Manila Teachers Party-List Rep. Virgilio Lacson reminded the DICT about the scale of the reopening of classes this year and how DepEd has been relying on them to deliver.

“We know that there won’t be any face to face instruction. The number of our basic education students is almost 24 million and DepEd is saying blended education, online [learning]. These are all related to interconnection,” Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Chairman Lacson said in mixed Filipino and English.

“So how true is this? Mangyayari ba talaga ito?…o nananaginip lang tayo? (Will this really happen? Or are we just dreaming),” he asked Caintic.

After a long pause, the assistant sectary replied: “I will ask the DepEd to answer that.” It wasn’t clear in the discussions as to how many schools have been provided with Internet by the DICT during the previous weeks.

“We are doubling our efforts in providing Internet for schools…naghahanap kami ng paraan para masindihan [yung schools] (we’re looking for ways to bring the schools online),” Caintic told the congressmen.

If it’s any consolation, he said that DICT is “ahead” when it comes to providing connectivity to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), since there’s only around a hundred of them.

Caintic laid out to the solons the agency’s plan for the basic education sector, with emphasis on maximizing their limited resources.

“Ang amin ding pinapakiusap is unahin namin yung mga eskwelahan sa sentro ng bayan. Kasi most likely nandoon din yung possible COVID cases at baka possibly, yun yung mga kailangan talaga nilang mag-distance learning (Our request is if we may be allowed to prioritize providing connection to schools in the central part of towns. Because most likely, the possible COVID cases would be present there and they are the ones who need to take up distance learning),” he said.

“We are here to provide connectivity for the students and also for the teachers kasi kailangan din nila ng [Internet] access (because they also need Internet access),” Caintic said.

He also once again floated the use of the DICT’s so-called Tech4ED” centers as an access point for pupils who need to download learning materials or even attend online classes.