The global pandemic has affected almost, if not all, industries all over the world.
Here in the Philippines, Filipinos are badly hit by the ripple effects of the COVID-19 that affected every aspect of their lives: from their jobs, health, well-being, and yes, their education.
The early ending of the school year (a precaution to prevent the further spread of the virus) is a clear sign of how the current school system can be affected by a global pandemic.
With the threat of COVID-19 still on the rise, with no clear sign of how (and when) it will end, the Department of Education (DepEd) saw itself faced with a crucial and giant task: to maintain the flow of quality education in the Philippines while protecting its stakeholders’ health in the process.
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What Will Bridge the Gap?
Though health precautions are, without a doubt, a paramount consideration in these challenging times, Filipinos’ education cannot be left behind, even during this crisis.
With this severe problem, the Department of Education decided that it’s time for the Philippines to fully adopt distance learning.
This initiative would utilize the power of current technologies to provide education even with significant limitations such as community quarantines and social distancing policies.
DepEd’s online learning platform is specially crafted to deal with the current limitations that both teachers and students face during the crisis.
Their platform is a convenient place where interactive and remote activities can be performed. It also supports the fast distribution of educational resources to teachers and students no matter where they are.
All these things are possible because the platform taps the current and proven technologies that provide practical solutions to the problems that the education sector is facing right now.
Without a doubt, this initiative from the Department of Education is laudable, but the DepEd (including us) are still faced with another hurdle that will surely limit the full realization of distance learning in the Philippines.
According to Huawei’s Global Connectivity Index, which annually ranks 79 nations based on various factors, including digital economic performance, ICT investment, and ICT maturity, the Philippines ranked 59th and is categorized as a “Starter.”
Let’s Talk About Numbers
There are 1,042,575 devices (Desktops, laptops, tablets) that are distributed across 44,155 schools that account for 93% of public schools in the Philippines.
On these more than a million devices, 459,578 are laptops/tablets that can be brought home, which represents only a very fraction of the overall learners in the public schools, which is two percent.
Forty-eight percent of public schools or some 22,645 schools have internet connections.
The 8,478 or 18 percent of public schools are in areas with ISPs or Internet Service Providers but have yet to be connected.
Limitations in Detail
DepEd is in tune with the current limitations of Philippine Education’s ICT Infrastructure.
The DepEd’s Information and Communications Technology Service or ICTS has a list of the specific challenges that our education sector faces with regards to tech infrastructures and limited capacities.
The list also comes with DepEd’s implemented solutions:
Limited internet access is a major roadblock for the total rollout of online learning.
One way to decrease students’ reliance on the internet in accessing educational resources is by loading relevant digital contents right into their devices.
Teachers should have proper training in the use of the technology needed for learning dissemination.
To prepare teachers for the new mode of learning, the Department of Education has already conducted a series of webinars and online training programs this year.
Each of these training has garnered 333,758 teachers from March 11 to May 15, 2020, who have been trained to use the technology that will be used for DepEd’s online learning.
The Department plans to expand this training, but, unfortunately, there are teachers with limited knowledge in the ICT norms, and there is also the issue of the lack of internet access.
Early grade levels must be supervised by parents in the use of technology.
But orienting parents in the use of technology could be a significant hurdle for students to take advantage of DepEd’s online learning fully.
Online learning might not always be applicable for the hands-on sessions required in Senior High School vocational tracks.
What Do The Stakeholders Think About DepEd’s Online Learning Program
The Department of Education (DepEd) has reached out to 789,690 respondents (of which are 53 percent are school personnel, 31 percents are parents/guardians, and 16 percent are learners) to know their response with the online learning initiative.
Here are the results (data source from The Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan in the Time of COVID-19 of the Department of Education (DepEd):
- From the parents/guardians category, 59 percent says they are open to this new initiative from the DepEd.
- From school personnel respondents, 41 percent say they are optimistic about the alternative learning set up.
- While from the learners, only 35 percent are looking forward to it.
Indeed, with the results mentioned above, it is clear that the Department of Education (DepEd) has a lot of work to do to make their initiative as appealing as possible to its stakeholders.
Understandably, their respondents still have a lot of trust in the traditional face-to-face learning.
When asked about the students’ readiness to go to school in the midst of strict implementation of social distancing, here’s how open the stakeholders are:
- Parents/Guardians – 58 percent
- School Personnel – 66 percent
- Learners – 61 percent
Also, DepEd has also distributed a Memorandum with a survey template to get in touch with the responses among its teachers about their readiness with the online learning.
There are 787,066 respondents for this survey (which are all teachers) from different stages of primary education.
Here are the results:
- Ownership of laptop and desktop
Of the 787,066 respondents, 87 percent of teachers (or 687,911) say that they have an available computer at home.
13 percent (or 99,155) says that they lack this equipment
- Internet Access
Of the 687,911 respondents with a computer at home, 49 percent (or 336,252) says that they have an internet connection at home.
41 percent (or 280, 531) says that even though they have a computer, they have no internet connection.
10 percent (or 71, 128) says that in their area, the internet signal is not available
Large Scale Implementation
With this distance learning that DepEd is implementing right now, the public might get the impression that it is the Department’s first actual attempt to venture into online learning.
Actually, it isn’t.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has existing Alternative Delivery Modes or ADMs even before the global pandemic happened.
But since the demand for this alternative mode of learning has skyrocketed recently, the challenge that the Department is facing right now is rolling out this alternative learning on a national scale.
Indeed, it’s a Herculean task to fully implement this alternative learning nationally, and we have yet to see if the Department of Education (DepEd) has what it takes to bring what the teachers and students need in these challenging times.
Department of Education (2020, May). The Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan in the Time of COVID-19. Retrieved June 15, 2020.