Free Internet connectivity for students urged

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday renewed his appeal for giant telecommunications companies Globe Telecoms and Smart Communications to help the government roll-out its distance learning program by providing students with free Internet connectivity.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture, said the only way students can accelerate their learning while grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic is through the use of printed and digital self-learning modules which require Internet connection.

DepEd had earlier announced it will pursue the use of blended learning or modular distance learning during the opening of classes on Aug. 24.

“Even if we don’t consider the lack of Internet access as a hindrance to learning while students, we need to strive to reach students and provide them a chance to learn through modern means while we are dealing with a pandemic,” Gatchalian said.

A free Internet connection, the senator said, would provide a boost to the country’s education sector which was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Through that, we can ensure that no child would be left behind,” he said, emphasizing that accelerating the provision of connectivity to all learners is a step to ensure equity in access to learning opportunities in the “new normal.”

Gatchalian also said 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.

He had earlier said telcos should consider installing cell sites in all of the country’s 42,046 barangays since these serve as viable spots for Internet access. Every barangay has a public school which need faster and better Internet services.

According to DepEd, more than three million students prefer online learning compared to the 7.3 million who prefer modular distance learning as an alternative learning modality for the opening of classes.

Also, according to the DepEd, more than 1.2 million prefer television-based instruction with 638, 213 students preferring to use radio as a medium of instruction.

DepEd said 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.