Internet connection, access, expenses top concerns in blended learning program

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    INEFFICIENT internet connection, limited internet access, and internet expenses are expected to impede the effective implementation of the blended and online learning programs for the coming opening of classes on Aug. 24.

    This was the common concern raised by resource persons invited by the Senate committee on basic education during a hybrid hearing on Thursday to determine the effects of COVID-19 in the country’s basic education system.

    Minister Mahogher Iqbal, of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education, said only 20 percent of households in the region has access to the internet, which will make the blended and online learning very difficult to implement.

    Iqbal said internet and cellphone connectivity are also very poor in the region, especially in island provinces like Tawi-tawi.

    Warlito Rosareal, president of the National Association of Public Secondary Schools of the Philippines, said they face the same problems in remote places, more so in Bacolod City where is based.

    “Limited internet access is the problem. Also, internet expenses are shouldered by parents and teachers, and they rely on ‘data’ which is of poor connection quality compared to broadband internet. How can we effectively deliver online classes? We need government support,” Rosareal said.

    Sergio Cabrera, president of the Public Schools District Supervisors Association, said aside from internet issues, they also face problems on expenses to be incurred in printing learning modules to be given students.

    Cabrera said another problem they expect on online education is who will properly supervise learners from kindergarten to grade 2 since they cannot read yet.

    “The parents cannot completely teach the child. Also, their electric bills will increase since they have additional electronic gadgets to be used in their houses,” Cabrera said.

    He suggested that authorities come up with a teachers’ training program on how to teach reading to younger learners in the blended and online learning system.

    Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Senate committee on basic education chair, called on authorities to address the concerns before schools open on Aug. 24.

    Pierre Tito Galla, co-founder democracy.net.ph, an internet and information and communications technology (ICT) rights advocacy organization, said people must realize that ICT is not the key to learning now that the country is battling a pandemic.

    Galla said wireless technology entails additional costs to a family and are not reliable due to poor connectivity and internet speed issues.

    He said their group is one with the Department of Education in using “legacy technology” as another means of learning, like the use of cable TV and radio. He also suggested the use of “bronze-age technology” using hand delivery of learning materials from the teacher to the students and back.

    “Our point here is that we must recognize that ICT is not yet the magic bullet now.

    Therefore, as (DepEd) Secretary (Leonor) Briones said if we’re going to wait, we’ll never get there. So many children will fall into the cracks especially those who are disadvantaged either by socio-economic status or through disability of some nature. The point is that all options must be on the table. Please do not treat ICT as a magic bullet,” Galla said.

    Isy Faingold, chief of education of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said we should all accept the fact that distance learning only complements face-to-face learning. He said we are forced to conduct distance learning due to the COVID-19 outbreak.