PASAY CITY  – A new poll on distance learning woes reveals how the digital divide hounds parents and learners nationwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For Senator Sherwin Win Gatchalian, the basic education sector’s recovery should accelerate efforts in expanding access to both internet connectivity and gadgets for learning as the poll showed the students are not learning enough.

Out of 1,200 adults surveyed nationwide in a Pulse Asia survey conducted from February 22 to March 3, 63% have a child in basic education. When asked about the educational problems they encountered during the pandemic, issues related to internet connectivity and access to gadgets were among the most common, with 43% of the respondents saying intermittent internet connection is usually their problem at home, 36% identified the lack of gadgets like cellphones, tablets or laptops, and 30% said they struggle with expensive internet fees.

While the 2019 National ICT Household Survey revealed that the National Capital Region (NCR) has the highest number of households with internet access (33.2%), the Pulse Asia survey revealed that it is the region that suffers most from intermittent internet connection (55%) and expensive internet fees (47%) compared to the rest of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. While NCR suffered less (28%) from the lack of gadgets, the problem is more common in the rest of Luzon (41%), Visayas (33 percent), and Mindanao (34 percent).

Based on the 2019 National ICT Household Survey, 82.3% of households nationwide do not have access to the internet. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (95.5%) and Region IX (93.8%) have the highest number of households without internet access.

In a statement, Gatchalian said that last year he proposed the installation of cell sites in all public schools to expand internet access nationwide. As part of the roll-out of the Public Education Network (PEN), the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) recently signed a memorandum of agreement to allow the use of public schools as common tower sites. Gatchalian has vowed to file a bill that will provide the country’s learners with a laptop and internet allowances.

“Sa gitna ng ating pagsisikap na ipagpatuloy ang edukasyon sa panahon ng pandemya, nakita natin na ang gadgets at internet ay para na ring tubig at kuryente para sa ating mga mag-aaral at kanilang mga pamilya. Sa pagbangon ng sektor ng edukasyon mula sa pandemya, dapat pagsikapan natin na walang mag-aaral ang mapag-iiwanan dahil lang hindi sila konektado sa internet o kaya naman ay wala silang magamit na gadgets para sa pag-aaral,” said Gatchalian, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

According to DepEd’s Learner Information System data as of November 27 last year, more than 18.7 million out of almost 24 million learners are using printed modules for distance learning. More than 1.6 million learners are attending online classes.

If the Pulse Asia survey is to be the gauge, only less than half of parents or guardians think that their children in basic education are learning, Gatchalian said, referring to the Pulse Asia survey on educational problems encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Senator from Valenzuela City, this adds urgency for the government in addressing the quality of distance learning and prioritizing education in the country’s recovery efforts.

The Pulse Asia Survey had 1,200 adult respondents nationwide, 63% of which have children in basic education. Only 46% of these parents or guardians said that their children are learning, while 25% or one in four said their children are not learning. Three out of ten or (30%) cannot say if their children are learning or not.

Among the educational problems encountered during the pandemic, difficulty in answering modules is the most common (53%) for adults with children in basic education. This problem is more common among respondents in Mindanao (74%). The survey also points to educational inequalities across socioeconomic groups as respondents from Class E (71%) have greater difficulty in answering modules compared to their peers from Class D (52%) and Class ABC (35%).

For Gatchalian, the results show the poor quality of distance learning. He also pointed out that the educational attainment of parents and guardians is also a factor on distance learning woes. Under the 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) released in 2017, up to 54% of Filipino household heads have not completed high school.

While the Pulse Asia survey revealed that 34% of parents or guardians have less or no time to guide their children, Gatchalian pointed out that the remaining 66% who may have time to help could still be struggling because Filipino household heads have low educational attainment.

“Bagama’t pinagsisikapan nating ituloy ang edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya, makikita nating marami pa rin sa mga mag-aaral ang hindi natututo sa ilalim ng distance learning at pati ang kanilang mga magulang ay nahihirapan din. Kung hindi natin tututukan ang pag-angat sa kalidad ng edukasyon sa kalagitnaan at sa pagtatapos ng pandemya, lalong mapag-iiwanan ang ating mga kabataan,” said the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

While the country is rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination program, Gatchalian emphasized the importance of preparing for the safe reopening of schools and the resumption of face-to-face classes, which will help address the effects of prolonged school closures in the country, including learning losses.

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Gatchalian: resolbahin ang problema sa digital divide

Bilang bahagi ng pagbangon ng sektor ng edukasyon mula sa mga pinsalang dulot ng COVID-19, isinusulong ni Gatchalian ang pagpapalawig ng access sa internet at mga gadgets para sa mag-aaral na nangangailangan nito.

Sa isang libo at dalawang daang (1,200) lumahok sa survey ng Pulse Asia mula Pebrero 22 hanggang Marso 3, mahigit animnapung (63) porsyento ang may anak o inaalagaan sa basic education. Maraming mga magulang ang nagsabing internet at kawalan ng gadgets ang problemang nararanasan nila sa distance learning. Higit apatnapu’t tatlong (43) porsyento sa kanila ang nagsabing paputol-putol ang kanilang internet connection, higit tatlumpu’t anim (36) na porsyento ang nag-ulat na wala silang gadgets sa bahay, at tatlumpung (30) porsyento naman ang nagsabing namamahalan sila sa gastos sa internet.

Bagama’t lumbas sa 2019 National ICT Household Survey na ang National Capital Region (NCR) ang may pinakamataas na bilang ng sambahayang may internet (33.2 porsyento), lumabas sa survey ng Pulse Asia na dito rin pinakalaganap ang suliranin sa paputol-putol na internet (55 porsyento) at mataas na gastos sa internet (47 porsyento). Bagama’t hindi masyadong laganap ang kakulangan ng gadgets sa NCR (28 porsyento), mas laganap naman ito sa ibang bahagi ng Luzon (41 porsyento), Visayas (33 porsyento), at Mindanao (34 porsyento).

Ayon din sa 2019 National ICT Household Survey, mahigit walumpung (82.3) porsyento ng mga sambahayan ang walang internet. Ang Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (95.5 porsyento) at Region IX (93.8 porsyento) ang may pinakamataas na bilang ng mga sambahayang walang access sa internet.

Noong nakaraang taon ay iminungkahi ni Gatchalian ang paglalagay ng cell site sa mga pampublikong paaralan upang mapalawig ang access at paggamit ng internet sa buong bansa. Bilang bahagi ng pagpapatupad ng Public Education Network (PEN), nagkasundo ang Department of Education (DepEd) at Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) na patayuan ng mga common towers ang mga pampublikong paaralan. Balak din ni Gatchalian na maghain ng isang panukalang batas upang mabigyan ang mga mag-aaral sa bansa ng laptop at internet allowances.

“Sa gitna ng ating pagsisikap na ipagpatuloy ang edukasyon sa panahon ng pandemya, nakita natin na ang gadgets at internet ay para na ring tubig at kuryente para sa ating mga mag-aaral at kanilang mga pamilya. Sa pagbangon ng sektor ng edukasyon mula sa pandemya, dapat pagsikapan natin na walang mag-aaral ang mapag-iiwanan dahil lang hindi sila konektado sa internet o kaya naman ay wala silang magamit na gadgets para sa pag-aaral,” pahayag ng Chairman ng Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

Ayon sa datos ng Learner Information System ng DepEd buhat noong Nobyembre 27, higit labing walong (18.7) milyong mag-aaral sa halos dalawampu’t apat (23.9) na milyong mag-aaral ang gumagamit ng printed modules para sa distance learning. Mahigit isang (1.6) milyon naman ang nakikilahok sa mga online classes.