Are Filipino students ready for online learning?

If you’re on Twitter, you might have seen a tweet that goes something like this:

“Hello guys! Ako po si (name), an incoming (grade) student. Kakapalan ko na po mukha ko to ask for help para makabili ng second-hand laptop na kailangan ko sa online class. Any amount is a big help and appreciated.” (Hello, guys! I’m (name), an incoming (grade) student. I’ll swallow my pride here: I’d like to ask for your help, so I can buy a second-hand laptop that I can use for online classes. Any amount [will be] a big help and appreciated.)

The comment, which has now found its way among many popular tweets, is just one of the major challenges that students face as they adopt distance learning next year. Based on the results of an initial survey by the Department of Education (DepEd), aside from the lack of gadgets, other issues that students (and parents) face include insufficient mobile data allowance and unstable internet connection. Parents are particularly concerned that these issues can affect the learning process of their children.

According to the survey, over 6.9 million answered that unstable mobile and internet connections were major issues, while over 6.8 million said that the lack of available gadgets and suitable equipment was the problem. In addition, 6.2 million people said that having insufficient load or data allowance was a primary concern for them.

Other answers included difficulties in independent learning, distractions (including social media and community noise), conflict with other activities like house chores, lack of available space for studying and health issues, among others.

For its part, DepEd has said that online-based education is just one of the different learning approaches that it plans to adopt next school year, with other options including modules and educational radio and television. The department also said that gadgets aren’t required for students, as it will provide modules for those without devices and internet connectivity. 

“The beauty of our approach is that we have options available for everyone. Hindi lamang para sa may laptop, o may cellphone ang bagong school year (The new school year is not just for those who have laptops or cellphones),” said Undersecretary Alain Pascua in a news release on Tuesday.

DepEd has also released guidelines for students looking to borrow equipment. Under the new guidelines, the school head will identify students who will be prioritized, such as those with disabilities. 

Low-risk areas, in particular, may also be allowed to hold face-to-face classes starting January 2021, provided they comply with government requirements.

#PisoParaSaLaptop campaign gains steam

With schools set to open later this month, students are now turning to social media for help, so they could buy laptops and gadgets needed for online learning.

Using #PisoParaSaLaptop, students post their requests—most request for help buying a laptop, while others ask for mobile internet—together with their GCash, where the kind-hearted can course their payments.

The Commission on Higher Education maintains that universities and colleges are ready to open classes in August, with flexible learning—a mix of online and modular methods—being an option for many students.

Many students, however, report otherwise. Since the lockdown started, posts showing students resorting to ingenious methods to get a good internet signal have become viral, especially during the pandemic.

The findings of the DepEd survey also support this claim, with 6.3 million respondents saying they do not have ways to access the internet. Among those who can connect online, more than eight out of 10 use their own mobile data.

With Metro Manila and nearby provinces going back to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for at least two weeks, this also means that workers—providers and breadwinners alike—are also left with no source of income. So, the next time you encounter a post for a new laptop, spare a thought, or even try to help out if you can.

Ralph Gurango

explainer | newsman | jrpg adventurer

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