Senator Win Gatchalian is pushing for the passage of his Education in the Better Normal bill that, he says, will help accelerate the education department’s digital transformation.
The measure, Senate Bill 1565, when enacted into law, would also help boost the creation of the Public Education Network (PEN) that will connect all public schools with Department of Education (DepEd) offices nationwide, he said.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, cited the importance of the bill noting that in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Duterte himself vowed PEN “shall be realized” before he steps down in 2022.
The chief executive also stated that priority would be given to the Last Mile Schools or those found in geographically isolated, disadvantaged, and conflict-torn areas. These schools also tend to be unenergized and lack connectivity.
One of the key provisions of Senate Bill 1565 is a mandate on DepEd to enhance its information and communications technology (ICT) capacity to streamline its workflow and processes.
Under the bill, the implementation of Republic Act10929, or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, will be fast-tracked to provide free connectivity and support distance learning in public schools, especially when school closures occur during emergency situations.
By building on its ICT capacity, DepEd will be able to automate and expedite its services, including enrollment, submission of grades and payments to promote zero-contact policy.
Aside from building a robust ICT infrastructure, Gatchalian said the proposed measure would also build on the capacities of DepEd’s personnel and staff on using electronic devices and supporting a department-wide digital transformation.
To roll out this digital transformation, DepEd will collaborate with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
According to Gatchalian, the enactment of his proposed measure would give the government a stronger mandate to close the digital divide in the country’s basic education sector, especially as it recovers from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Nakikiisa tayo sa adhikain ng Pangulong mabuo ang Public Education Network upang gawing mas moderno at matatag ang ating sistema ng edukasyon. Sa pamamagitan ng ating panukalang i-angat ang dekalidad na edukasyon sa ilalim ng better normal, mas mabibigyan natin ng kasiguruhan na ang programang ito ay maisasakatuparan sa mga susunod na taon (We are one with the President in forming PEN to make our education system more modern and stable. The measure aims to better the quality of education system under a ‘Better Normal’ that would be in effect in the coming years) ,” he said.
Based on DepEd data, only 48 percent or 22,645 out of the country’s 47,013 schools have connectivity.
According to the President’s 14th Report on the implementation of Republic Act 11469,or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, P700 million has been allocated to provide internet access to some 7,000 public schools.