As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the country to adopt online education as part of the new normal, the lawmakers and officials of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) discovered several challenges in implementing e-learning.

During the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology meeting, a question was raised about issuing a plan to install connections in rural areas without an internet connection.

Sorsogon 1st District Rep. Evelina Escudero inquired DICT Undersecretary Manny Caintic when will the agency plan to install connections in rural areas without an internet connection.

“Do you have a timeline when you will be putting connections dito sa mga rural barangays?” asked Sorsogon 1st District Rep. Evelina Escudero to DICT Undersecretary Manny Caintic.

Ayaw natin maantala yung kanilang learning capacity kung walang internet. Take the case of Sorsogon,” he added.

Caintic said giving internet will take time, which he explained: “As to the timeline, I will get back to you on that. But the more realistic, at least immediately in this year, is to give as many access to our Tech4Ed Centers and to schools.”

For the meantime, Caintic advised that students can go to Tech4Ed Centers and barangay health centers by schedule to download content.

“Then go home, do your assignments, do the work, and then go back and then upload. The same will go for teachers, as well as for students,” he said.

He stressed it’s the realistic plan the DICT can implement in remote areas not covered by the telcos.

However, he clarified that the department is doubling its efforts to help telcos create more towers. By the end of this year, it hoped the telcos have expanded their coverage. The agency planned to partner with local ISPs for areas with good signals and cables already in place.

“Baka sila ang pwede mag-distribute. We can encourage the telcos to extend the zero-rating for certain websites like DepEd and CHED (Commission on Higher Education) para yun mga yun libre ang content, as long as educational,” suggested Caintic.

Meanwhile, Committee Chair Victor Yap suggested using Zoom in densely populated cities with a stable internet connection.

Caintic pointed out that the challenge in digital education is training.

“The DICT will invest heavily on training the teachers. Mahirap po magturo. It is hard to scribble using a mouse. Hindi po madali magturo ng Algebra kung mahirapan kang mag-scribble ng x squared plus y squared,” he explained.

What’s more, the department would also have to invest in the teachers.

“We have to teach our teachers how to teach. But we also have to give them teaching paraphernalia, which is our effort this year. Hopefully, next year, makakapagbigay tayo ng tablets so that teachers can actually do the Math scribbling,” he said.

The DICT expected to start building its digital connectivity and access next year.

As for Yap, he fully supported DICT’s initiatives but explained the budget that the department is asking for must be presented to the economic team.

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