There is a saying that goes: “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”
This is true for over a million Filipino students who have no access to digital content that can help bridge the divide between those in urban and rural communities.
Smart Communications addressed this gap throughout 2018 with different initiatives under #LearnSmart, the wireless services provider’s education program which encourages the use of technology to enhance learning.
Smart’s flagship project is School-in-a-Bag, a digital learning package that comes bundled with a teacher laptop and student tablets preloaded with educational mobile applications. Carried in a weather-proof backpack, other contents include a Smart pocket WiFi unit, a projector or LED TV, DVD player, solar panel and charging station. Beneficiaries also received teacher training on the Dynamic Learning Program—an innovative teaching methodology developed by Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Dr. Christopher Bernido and Dr. Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido— and program evaluation from Smart. Donations were made possible through partnerships with generous individuals and organizations.
Over a hundred School-in-a-Bag units deployed as of end-2018
The year 2018 was a milestone year for School-in-a-Bag as Smart delivered its 100th unit right before Christmas. The latest beneficiaries were students from Sitio Lipata in Lahuy Island, a small town with no electricity that is accessible via a 1.5-hour boat ride from mainland Caramoan, Camarines Sur. It is home to youth who have to walk up to six hours a day to attend the nearest school.
Five School-in-a-Bag packages were jointly donated by Smart and the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation. The kits will serve as educational materials for Yellow Boat’s Bangkarunungan Program for the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Each of the five (5) boats will transport both the mobile teachers and the bag to the coastal communities so that both youth and adult learners can have access to education. “Maraming mga bata dito ang hindi na nakapagtatapos ng pag-aaral kasi napaka-inaccessible (a lot of children here do not get to finish their studies due to inaccessibility),” explained Vice President Leni Robredo, who was present during the turnover ceremonies in Lahuy Island.
Emphasizing on the many partnerships of Yellow Boat, such as the one with Smart, the Camarines Sur native admitted that a lot has to be done in Sitio Lipata and other far-flung areas nationwide. However, Robredo is optimistic that, “basta pinagtutulungan, walang imposible (as long as we help each other, nothing is impossible).”
Improved learning and retention through Mother Tongue educational apps
More than merely donating gadgets, Smart developed several interactive tools to support learning strategies, as well as help preserve and promote local culture and heritage. In 2018, the team partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) and academic institutions nationwide to develop mother-tongue based mobile applications.
Among those who benefited from these apps was Analou Torifel, an elementary school teacher from the small island of Lipayran, southwest of Bantayan Island in Northern Cebu. After receiving their School-in-a-Bag kit from Smart and the Rotary Club of Cebu last September, the Grade 3 instructor emphasized that the curriculum-based learning applications that are pre-loaded in the students’ tablets will make them more excited to learn something new and educational every day.
“Sure gyud ko ma’am kay ang bata need baya sila og maka catch sa ilang attention nga dugay nila makalimtan (I am very sure that these apps will help, because the kids need something to catch their attention and help them retain the lessons),” Torifel said. She specified that she will augment her daily lessons with the help of Kaalam (Cebuano term for ‘knowledge’), Learn Smart’s Cebuano app that features folklore stories all retold by residents of Argao town in Cebu province. Other mother-tongue based apps that were launched by Smart in 2018 were the Bahay Kubo Filipino app, Taallam and Tahderiyyah Arabic apps, and Matisalug app for the Matisalug Tribe of Davao and Bukidnon.
The latest instructional methods, teaching activities
Smart and its partners recognized that communities in far-flung islands and mountains are not the only ones who are unable to access the latest instructional methods and teaching activities.
For the children of Marawi, living in a conflict-stricken place prevented them from returning to school. This is why Smart partnered with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), Project Handclasp Foundation (PHF), and the US-Philippines Society (UPS) in the donation of School-in-a-Bag kits as educational support for those affected by the siege. “Getting children back into school – especially in this innovative way – will change the trajectory of their lives and help make lasting peace,” said PDRF president Rene Meily.
Out-of-school youth under the Alternative Learning System of Valenzuela, Metro Manila also received a School-in-a-Bag package to help them complete their education. The donation was part of the technology package that was awarded to recipients of Synergeia Foundation’s Seal of Good Education Governance, which the highly urbanized city won for the 2nd year in a row. “Modern learning tools and extensive multimedia content can help our students keep up with the rest of the world and become more useful members of the society,” said Valenzuela City ALS Instructional Manager Marie Reachelle Navarro.
Smart also supported the improvement of education in the country by implementing relevant teaching methodologies for schools, such as the CVIF-Dynamic Learning Program (CVIF-DLP). First implemented in the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) in Jagna, Bohol, the disaster-resilient form of education has reportedly improved the academic performance of students in more than 100 public and private schools nationwide. “We hope that by getting more schools to adopt DLP, we can enhance the Filipino youth’s performance, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines,” said Smart Community Partnerships Head Darwin F. Flores.
No learner left behind
Smart emphasized how strong partnerships with community stakeholders are essential in developing Learn Smart programs. “From partnerships with government and non-government offices, local government units, companies, academe, advocacy groups, and media, we all need to work together to help build a nation where no learner is left behind,” said Smart Public Affairs Head Ramon R. Isberto.
For more information on the different Learn Smart initiatives, visit the Smart Communities Facebook page at www.facebook.com/smartcommunities or email firstname.lastname@example.org.