The country’s educational system needs to be transformed toward digital inclusion if Filipino students are to be globally competitive, skilled, and eventually become creators, not just consumers, of technology.
This is according to Sen. Grace Poe, also a presidential candidate in the May polls, who said that digital literacy should be at the forefront of Philippine education.
?We have to transform our system so that our students will have the skills that they need to excel in a technology-driven world,” Poe said in a statement
In 2015, the government’s budget for textbooks and instructional materials was P3.461 billion or roughly P164 per student, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Tablets, on the other hand, would cost around P2,000 per student, at the minimum. This is equivalent to an investment of at least P42 billion for the estimated 21 million public school students by 2020.
For Poe, that is a reasonable amount to pay for the vast benefits of digitization, including equipping the youth with the skills necessary to elevate them into a breed of technology innovators.
“If there is one thing that I would put money in, it would be the development of the Filipino youth. It’s an investment in the country’s future,” said Poe, a former teacher.
During her proclamation as an independent presidential candidate in September, Poe stressed in her 20-point agenda the need for digitization in the country’s educational system.
“I believe that integrating new learning technologies will improve the learning process as a whole and will cost a lot less in the long run. We cannot expect to reap any benefits if we do not sow,” she said.
In the Philippines, a $1,000 investment in a device could translate into an increase of $49,000 in an individual’s life-long earning potential, according to “Shared Prosperity: An ICT Manifesto for the Philippines for 2016 and Beyond,” which was prepared by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Microsoft.
A device investment for the approximately 12 million Filipino children living in poverty would reap estimated lifetime benefits worth $59.3 billion, according to the study.
“To ensure that all Filipinos have equal opportunity to participate in and benefit fully from the digital economy, we will need to re-orient the educational system to cultivate a new breed of creators, not just consumers, of technology,” the ICT manifesto, released on Nov. 25, said.
Poe, however, acknowledged that re-orienting the educational system will face many hurdles. A majority of teachers, who are supposed to be instruments of digital inclusion, lacks familiarity with technology and the concept of innovative teaching.
“The key is to focus on teachers, if we want to raise a new generation of innovators. The government has to be more aggressive in training our teachers and improving their working conditions to help them meet the goals of digital literacy in innovative ways,” said Poe.
Connectivity and Internet speed also pose a challenge, she noted. While 38 million Filipinos are wired, making the Philippines a nation of tech-savvy citizens, the country’s broadband services are behind its Asean neighbors, with household download speed ranked slowest in the region.
At an average of 2.5 Mbps, the Philippines placed 103rd among 190 countries in terms of Internet speed, according to a report by Akamai.