Connectivity, Internet access key to success in online learning

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A Daycare Center in Municipality of San Luis, Batangas
Photo file/THEPHILBIZNEWS

By Alithea De Jesus

There are two critical factors that are needed now to make the online education successful in the country not just now in times of coronavirus pandemic, but also when the transition to the new normal ends.

Compared with our ASEAN neighbors, the Philippines ranks first on the list, with many Filipino netizens spending over 10 hours online every day, and interesting to note that Pinoys spend more than 30 minutes longer than people in any other country.

Despite the high usage of internet and social media the Philippines, that leaves densely populated Indonesia, on second, followed by Thailand and Malaysia, being third and fourth in the ASEAN region, respectively. The need for connectivity becomes a necessity in time of the pandemic, as many are forced to stay home and adapt to the inevitable change of educational format under the new normal.

Consequently, both private and public schools urged the local government units (LGUs) to provide them with connectivity and internet access to boost the online learning requirements of their students as the education sector prepares for the new normal when school resumes next month.

As early as June 2019, then Acting DICT Chief Eliseo Rio, Jr. sought the EO to fast-track interconnectivity in the Philippines to enhance the capability of the people in the countryside and start their respective e-commerce business, online learning and promote of their respective towns using the social media.

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The quest for connectivity and access to internet connection became the focal point of the Liveable Cities Labs:  Webinar Series on the topic, “Online Education Under COVID” that was organized by the Liveable Cities Challenge (LCC),  the League of Cities of the Philippines and Globe Business.

Guests from the academe shared their respective views on how the lingering issue on Philippines’ connectivity and internet access remains unsolved. As the telcos have been investing heavily in the infrastructure needed to build the gap on connectivity and access across the country.

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Globe invested USD1.2 billion in network, capacity building

Dr. Salustiano Jimenez, acting Director of Region VII of the Department of Education (DepEd), opened the discussion by presenting the current situation of public schools in Central Visayas. Dr. Jimenez said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DepEd needs to adjust to new teaching modalities to suit learners, which include modular, online or distance learning, self-learning, blended learning, and homeschooling.  The DepEd urged the LGUs, especially the cities and municipalities, to help create a resilient educational system.

“Aside from giving out tablets and phones, they can help by providing access or connectivity with a point to point connection and a wide area network to connect the students and teachers,” Jimenez said.

Dr. Reynato Alimbuyutan of the National Research College in Nueva Ecija echoed Jimenez’ call to the LGUs to ensure that connectivity is assured once schools open on August 24, 2020.

“Support should be given to private schools because we are experiencing the brunt of the pandemic, too. LGUs can help provide internet access because we no longer have the means to do this,” Alimbuyutan explained.

According to DepEd, only 27 percent of private school students have enrolled back in private institutions, compared to last year, resulting in loss of income and closure of some of these schools.

Due to the pandemic, there is a demand for online learning as DepEd prepares its Basic Education Learning continuity plan that includes allowing schools to decide the use of learning methods depending on the situation where the schools are located. Globe supports these adaptive learning methods, especially online learning that has shown increased retention of information among students,  in the new normal.

“The pandemic has really disrupted education not only in the country but the whole world as well. But rest assured that we are in this together, we are with the education sector in finding ways to help overcome these challenges,” Mark Abalos, Globe Segment Head for Education, said.

Of the 28 million Filipino students, more than nine million are at the secondary level, while more than 8 million are at the primary level, with the rest on pre-primary and tertiary levels.

For its part, Globe said its infrastructure expansion program for the rest of the year remains on track despite the mandated quarantine restrictions. Vince Tempongko, Globe’s VP for Site Acquisition and Management, assured that the company’s network builds nationwide include areas near schools, colleges and universities. Globe, however, needs the support of the LGUs to fasttrack the infrastructure build-up.

“We can do this as soon as the LGUs give us the necessary permits so that we have a pipeline of sites for construction so that Globe can increase its capacity now that connectivity is an essential tool for our students in the new normal,” added Tempongko.

Moderated by LCC Chair Guillermo Luz, the Liveable Cities Lab will be held every other Wednesday in the next seven weeks. The series will feature topics to equip city leaders and stakeholders with knowledge and insights to help them best serve their communities.

More than 400 participants, including at least 20 mayors coming from different areas of the country, attended the webinar.

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