Senate bill seeks creation of CHED office for online learning and distance educ

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Sen. Francis Tolentino has filed a bill calling for the creation of an office in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) that will spearhead the implementation of online learning and distance education in higher education institutions (HEIs) across the country.

Ang problema po kasi natin ngayon eh kanya kanya ang mga educational institutions sa implementation ng online learning. With the creation of a national framework, CHED will prescribe the minimum requirements for the curriculum and will also oversee the ‘quality control,” Tolentino said on Senate Bill No. 1459.

By amending Republic Act No. 10650, or the “Open Distance Learning Act,” the proposed bill will pave the way for the creation of the Tertiary Online Learning and Distance Education Office in CHED to be done in coordination with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

In the Philippines, some educational institutions have already started offering online classes, but not all students can participate because of lack of access to technology and connectivity, the lawmaker noted. He added there were other challenges such as the lack of a comprehensive curriculum and quality standards for online learning and distance education in the country.

With the measure, Tolentino said the newly created office will institutionalize online and distance learning in all colleges and universities by developing the necessary policy guidelines and quality standards for its extensive implementation.

Oras na para palakasin natin ang ating mga makabagong educational platforms na online at distance learning lalo na at makakatulong sila sa ating mga estudyante na ipagpatuloy ang kanilang pag-aaral sa kabila ng pandemya na ito at iba pang mga sakuna,” Tolentino said.

He stressed that the continuing rise in Covid-19 cases has placed education systems around the globe in jeopardy, with school cancellations forcing 1.5 billion students to stay at home. The pandemic forced different countries to embrace online learning tools for student engagement, with countries like the US ramping up support and development of e-learning platforms to continue to provide a space for educators and learners.

Tolentino also recently batted for an inter-university cooperation between private and state universities and colleges and urged CHED to further develop the rules and regulations for this possible program.

By forging an inter-university cooperation between these institutions, Tolentino said that a college student from the province can finish a degree from another university by completing his units in his local college or university through online learning and having it credited as such. This will enable students to pursue higher education in other institutions without having to leave their respective provinces, he added.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ralph Recto said the education sector to look for ways that will allow students to learn amidst the pandemic without making them ill.

“This can be done by customizing the alternatives — distance learning, TV or radio-based instruction, home schooling, modular distance learning, online courses, ALS (Alternative Learning Systems), even radically-reduced class sizes in zero-Covid zones — into one blend that will meet a learner’s socioeconomic profile,” Recto said.

He said Filipino teachers can adapt to the “new normal” if they are empowered with the right tools to make a learner-centered adjustment. “In the meantime, let us work on our IT infrastructure to close the digital divide. The role of telcos — including the third one — to ramp up Internet speed and penetration is crucial if lessons will be coursed via broadband,” he said.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said while the government’s online learning initiative is admirable, the reality is that majority of the country’s population does not have access to Internet.

“The Internet in the country remains the most expensive yet the slowest among Asian countries. I do not see how virtual classes being proposed by the DepEd can be effectively implemented across all sectors. The poor will be at a disadvantage here,” he said.

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