Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid has filed a resolution seeking to conduct an inquiry to determine the feasibility of mandating telecommunications companies to provide free Internet access to online learning portals, educational websites, and similar digital platforms.
The free Internet service aims to benefit students and teachers during times of disaster and emergency when physical classes cannot be conducted, according to Lapid.
Senate Resolution number 416 cited the current Covid-19 pandemic which resulted to abrupt and unprecedented closure of schools and educational institutions for all levels of learning throughout the country.
As the educational system struggles to catch up, the resolution noted that many schools from primary to tertiary level have resorted to online or virtual classes in order to deliver the lessons to students, conduct tests, and provide other educational requirements.
“Sa mga panahon ng kalamidad at emergency gaya na lamang ng hinahrap nating pandemya, mahalagang may malakas at maaasahang Internet service ang ating mga estudyante at mga guro. Sa ganitong paraan lamang masisiguro na magtutuloy-tuloy ang kanilang pag-aaral at pagkatuto. Alam nating matagal pa babalik ang nakagawiang face-to-face o physical classes kaya sa online classes nakadepende ang ating mga estudyante para hindi titigil ang paglinang sa kanilang kaalaman,” Lapid said.
Lapid pointed out that it is necessary to determine the feasibility of government partnering with telecommunication companies to provide free Internet access whenever students and teachers use online learning portals. Free Internet will also be a requirement for students who will need to use online libraries, educational websites and similar digital platforms during times when physical classes cannot be conducted, he said.
For the incoming school year 2020-2021, the Department of Education (DepEd) decided to push back the resumption of classes to August 24, 2020 but the mode of learning will not necessarily be a traditional face-to-face learning classroom. This means that there will be schools which will be forced to implement alternative learning delivery modalities such as online classes.
Meanwhile, in the tertiary level, universities and colleges with capacity to conduct full online classes can proceed with their schedule any time while institutions who adopt flexible learning system can open by August 2020.
“Sa mga susunod na buwan lalo’t habang narito pa ang banta ng Covid-19 sa ating bansa, malinaw na ang sistema ng pagtuturo ay nakasalalay na mekanismo ng online classes, online activities, projects at assignments. Ibig sabihin, mangangailangan ang mga estudyante ng malakas at mabilis na Internet para makasabay sa hinihinging pagbabago sa kanilang pag-aaral, pero paano naman makakasabay ang mahihirap na estudyante kung hindi libre ang Internet? Maging ang mga guro ay mahihirapan makapasok sa digital platforms kung ang Internet ay kailangan pang bayaran,” Lapid added.
Lapid also emphasized that during calamities and emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic, expenses and fees relative to Internet subscription are not a priority, especially for poor households or those families whose income-earners are forced out of work or business.
The lawmaker also lauded the Education department’s initiative in establishing DepEd Commons which is an online delivery platform designed as an alternative mode for teaching-learning process during class suspensions and other similar circumstances. DepEd for it part, was also able to partner with certain telecommunications companies to give teachers and learners free Internet access to the website.