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Students in the Philippines receive gadgets for virtual classes

A few days before Christmas, students in Ilocos Norte received new gadgets that they can use for their virtual classes. The Department of Education (DepEd) has announced that it has dispatched a total of 3,890 tablet units to the local government of the province as part of its directive to assist learners in the transition to online learning systems following safety restrictions set in place due to the pandemic. 

The DepEd delivered the tablets in collaboration with Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Manotoc. The governor said, “We hope that many of our students can use these tablets for many years and hopefully, through their tertiary or college education. We appreciate the partnership and we look forward to many, many projects together for the betterment of education in the province”. 

DepEd purchased the tablets under the Special Education Fund allotted for the provincial government. Officials of the education department in Ilocos Norte were present during the turn-over event. 

The education sector is among those widely affected by pandemic restrictions. To help address this challenge, officials from the local government continue to push for a more efficient gadget-based learning system as an alternative to face-to-face classes. The suggestion was also intended to solve instances when synchronous classes are disrupted by internet connection issues. Local officials expressed confidence that this will also help mitigate financial constraints suffered by parents and students in paying for internet charges. 

The lack of laptops and other gadgets that can be used for virtual classes is a shared struggle among students and teachers. Despite this challenge, the DepEd assured teachers in an earlier report that “there is no urgent need to buy laptops or computers”. The department added that one of the advantages of online classes is that there are numerous options for learning and that this mode of education is not just for those who have computers, laptops or smartphones. It added that having the right equipment is still important. 

One option for teachers who do not have access to electronic equipment is to borrow IT equipment as provided for under a Memorandum released by the Office of the Undersecretary for Administration (OUA). The memo, released a month after the government enforced an enhanced community quarantine, allows teachers to borrow desktop computers, laptops and tablets from their schools to be used during the school year 2020-2021. 

To help students and teachers, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said that the department will use its additional funds to provide gadgets and computers to schools and students as it implements a distance learning programme. A portion of the funds will also go to its planned reproduction of printed Self-Learning Modules. She added that the department will also improve its Learning Continuity Plan and the Last Miles School project which aids 3,000 schools in remote areas that have no internet connectivity. 

The Education Department is set to be benefitted from the implementation of the National Broadband Programme (NBP) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. As recently reported by OpenGov Asia, Congress has doubled the nation’s budget for broadband services for the year 2021. The total budget for internet services was pegged at PHP 4.5 trillion (US$ 93.6 billion). A big slice of this amount, or PHP 1.9 billion (US$ 39.5 million), will go to the NBP. 

Aside from improving internet services in the country, a bigger budget for digital services is expected to benefit the education and healthcare sectors of the economy. Improved infrastructure for broadband solutions is also anticipated to usher in more investors due to enhanced ease of doing business in the Philippines.


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