Free Wi-Fi in public schools? Bill pushes for digital transformation in education

·2 min read
A grade boy, who does not have access to free Wi-Fi, sits on the roof of his home as he takes part in an online class using a tablet, due to weak internet connection in his area.
Jhay Ar Calma, 10, a grade 5 student, sits on the roof of his home as he takes part in an online class using a tablet, due to weak internet connection in his area, as schools remain closed during the COVID-19 outbreak, in Sta. Mesa, Manila, Philippines, October 30, 2020. A bill seeks to provide free Wi-Fi in all public schools to address some of the distance learning issues in the country. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Senator Win Gatchalian has proposed a bill to set up free Wi-Fi in all public schools nationwide.

Blended learning to remain in ‘very specific areas’

The Senate Basic Education Committee chair had filed Senate Bill 383 that seeks to “accelerate the digital transformation of the basic education sector” in accordance with Republic Act 10929, or the Free Internet Access in Public Spaces Act.

“We will be pushing for the digital transformation of the education sector to make sure that each school in the country has access to the internet. I believe that after the pandemic, blended learning will become part of the new normal, so we need to expand the use of technology to deliver quality education,” Gatchalian said.

Since blended learning will remain in “very specific areas” after the government’s target full implementation of face-to-face classes in October, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has also instructed the Department of Education (DepEd) to address problems in teacher supply and classrooms.

‘Address issues on teacher supply and classrooms’

Ang gawin na lang natin [ay] i-identify saan ‘yung areas na magbe-blended learning para maka-focus tayo. Ihanda ‘yung mga devices at mga kailangan nila na noong pandemic hindi na nasu-supply-an sa mga bata,” Marcos said.

(What we will do is to identify areas that will remain in blended learning so we can focus. Provide the devices of the students that weren’t available to them before.)

We continue with blended learning pero in very specific places lamang. As much as possible, face-to-face na talaga,” Marcos added.

(We will continue with blended learning but in very specific places only. As much as possible, the target is face-to-face.)

Although Malacañang and DepEd have yet to release the list of places where blended learning will remain, DepEd Secretary Vice President Sara Duterte said that they will prepare a plan on what they will do after October 31.

Citing a recent survey, Duterte said that the majority of the respondents already prefer in-person learning.

According to Gatchalian’s proposed bill, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will spearhead and accelerate the installation, deployment and activation of free public Wi-Fi in all public schools in the country.

DICT data shows that only two percent of all public schools, or 945 public schools, have free public Wi-Fi.

The Philippines found the shift to online classes, self-learning modules and television and radio programs extremely challenging with its population of 108 million. Less than a fifth of Filipino households have internet access and many lack mobile devices.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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