"This predicament dramatizes the social impact of the pandemic."
Understandably, the issue of the resumption of classes for school year 2020-2021 took centerstage in President Duterte’s last meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19.
There is apparently an urgent need to postpone the regular June opening of classes to a later date to ensure the safety of students with the absence of vaccine for or antidote to the coronavirus.
This predicament dramatizes the social impact of the pandemic, as the importance Filipinos place on education cannot be overemphasized.
Internet, as well as radio and television, shall be explored as alternative ways to continue with the educational programs, signaling the coming of digital the age and electronic multi-media in education at all levels.
Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones said the cyberspace may yet take the place of the classroom to address the problem of social or physical distancing needed to be observed if the traditional face-to-face mode of teaching and learning cannot yet be conducted.
Information communication technology has drastically changed the mode of living, including the school setting. Google and YouTube have all but made obsolete the traditional library of paper-bound books. Emailing has replaced the good old-fashioned letter-writing and sending on snail mail.
Now, social media platforms – such as Facebook, Messenger, Viber – that teachers and students have been using shall play a bigger role in the virtual classroom.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams and other applications will be more useful to teachers in delegating homework and to students in complying with assignments, just like the work-from-home (WFH) program now being implemented by the government and private entities. Such platforms are increasingly being used in business conferences and webinars.
President Duterte is impressed with the DepEd Chief’s report on the plan to use online learning, even committing full financial support for the distance education program.
Unfortunately, these are easier said than done, as quality of the internet and ICT services in the country has remained in a dismal state.
Four years into the Duterte administration, improvement in the telecommunication services does not seem to be a “real change” that the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) intend to bring about.
There has not been a bit or even one byte of improvement in the internet speed even with the appointment of former Senator Gringo Honasan as DICT secretary almost a year ago.
Why, Honasan did not even tag along Secretary Briones to discuss online distance-education with the President and the IATF. Gringo and the NTC officials should have explained what they can do to upgrade the capability of local internet.
The Philippines ranked 101st among 179 countries in terms of fixed line internet speed in 2019. The country’s average speed of 19.51 Mbps was much slower than the global average of 57.91 Mbps.
Some of our Asian neighbors have the fastest internet in the world, including Taiwan, no. 1; Singapore, no. 2; Japan, 6th; Hong Kong, 19th; South Korea, 42nd; and Thailand, 45th. Incidentally, these countries are also on the list of those with the best primary education in the world.
The million-dollar question now is this: How would the online classes of 28 million students who are going back to school this coming August effectively shift to the virtual classroom with this snail-paced internet connection that telecom companies provide?
Even Presidential spokesman Sec. Harry Roque during my phone interview with him over Radyo Pilipinas complained that the poor internet service has affected MalacaÅ„ang’s media briefings and Cabinet’s online meetings.
It’s not really an exaggeration at all to say that the country’s lagging internet signal has aggravated people so much so it has caused persistent high-blood pressure and even heart attacks. Telecom companies should be held liable for causing these ailments.
People are asking: What have the Department of Information, Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) done to address the problem of poor wi-fi signal and slow internet connection services provided by PLDT and Globe Telecom?
A group of hackers, who called themselves The Anonymous, took matters into their own hands late last week and hacked the PLDT customer service Twitter account, claiming they are fed up with the “poor internet connection.” Warning Globe that it will be their next target, The Anonymous elicited cheers from netizens.
The impotent DICT and the NTC certainly did not escape the public’s condemnation, too, as they have failed to fulfill their mandates. One caller said, "Nagpapalaki lang ng itlog yang mga nasa DICT at NTC!"
NTC appears to have been negligent of its RA 7925 mandate “to regulate and supervise the provision of telecommunications services.” Ironically, the NTC’s Vision states, “By 2025, the NTC is a world-class regulatory agency meeting the challenges of the digital world.”
It’s very clear that NTC’s work is, by design, as slow as realizing its stated Vision. Unfortunately, the nation under the current circumstances can no longer stand another five years of NTC’s bull c*ap!
The country, particularly the young people, direly need faster internet and better-quality ICT services now. To this end, Congressman Eric Yap said the ACT-CIS Party-list will file a House bill seeking to modernize the public educational system at all levels, institutionalize online distance-education and make it attuned to the Digital Age.