Noting that it has now become a basic necessity, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian called on the government to ensure that each student should be entitled to a laptop and Internet connectivity.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, said every student should have a laptop and an access to Internet similar to having access to basic utilities like electricity and water.
“There’s no question that they should have a laptop and an access to Internet—not 10 years or 15 years from now—but now,” said Gatchalian, during the Senate panel’s oversight hearing on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.
“We’re trying to formulate a law where we will give every child, every learner a laptop and access to the Internt, much like access to electricity and water. It’s now a basic necessity,” the senator said.
The lawmaker reiterated his position after Department of Education (DepEd) officials admitted that access to gadgets and connectivity at home have had an impact on the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018.
According to DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan, students who scored better in the PISA “are highly correlated” to those who have access to gadgets and Internet connectivity at home, while those who scored lower were those who had no access to any laptop or desktop computers.
Gatchalian, however, acknowledged that affordability could be an issue and said the government should address this issue.
But since the government has already eased the guidelines of certain businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he said DepEd should consider the feasibility of conducted “localized and limited” face-to-face learning especially in places with zero cases of the coronavirus.
The senator noted that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) itself has allowed spas, massage parlors and even “sabong” or cockfights even amid the pandemic.
“It goes to show that the situation has dramatically improved that is why I join the call of Senator (Nancy) Binay and Senator (Imee) Marcos on looking at the possibility of a localized, limited, face-to-face classes,” Gatchalian said.
However, Malaluan said the DepEd will first consider conducting COVID-19 epidemiological evidence among students and age groups in basic education before reintroducing face-to-face classes again.
“This concern, your honor, is not just political on our part because it can really put at risk learning continuity altogether,” Malaluan said.
“In other words, it will strengthen the position and arguments of those that are advocating for an academic freeze,” the DepEd official warned.