Jun 2, 2020

The enrollment period for school year 2020-2021 began yesterday, Jun. 1, but many are still debating the feasibility of virtual classes. Students and activists are stating that no student should be left behind, taking into account the low-income families without access to the internet or learning devices. 

[READ: Public school enrollment to push through on Jun. 1, according to Roque]

The Department of Education (DepEd) is pushing through with their decision to resume classes on Aug. 24, making use of alternative learning platforms like cellphones, radios and television. However, it is yet to be determined whether or not Filipino families can actually afford online classes and alternative learning platforms. Weighing in on the matter, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) has published a policy brief entitled “Education in the Time of COVID-19: Assessing the Accessibility of Online Learning for Filipino Learners” by Cymon Kyle Lubangco, a graduate student from the school’s Department of Economics.

The brief urges policymakers to ensure the effectiveness of online and alternative learning modes by future-proofing the new systems. Using data from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey of 2015, it analyzes the percentage of households with schooling members by region against the percentage of households with schooling members that have access to alternative learning channels (internet, computer, cellphone, television and radio).

The findings show that only “9.77 percent of the 15.8 million households with schooling members in the country have paid for internet access in 2015,” while only 25 percent have at least one personal computer. More families have access to television (79.22 percent)  and radios (40.49 percent). The percentage of those with cellphone ownership is the highest at 89.22 percent.

[READ: #NoStudentLeftBehind is a call for inclusivity, not an excuse for laziness]

“While an analysis using a more recent dataset may be more helpful in generating the estimates, data availability in the public domain prohibits us from doing so,” the policy brief reads. “Nevertheless, the estimates below will allow us to make sense of the issue of accessibility of online learning materials for Filipino workers.”

The data also showed the estimates of households with schooling members who have access to alternative learning channels per capita income. Most notably, only 0.16 percent of those at the bottom 20 percent of income-earning households have paid internet access. Additionally, a large percentage (89.22 percent) of households with schooling members own at least one cellphone in all income groups.

For the incoming school year, the policy brief concluded that a “number of students might be left behind.” Students who are part of the lower income groups are more likely to have difficulties in utilizing online or alternative learning platforms. It also agrees with DepEd’s use of television and radios and to partner with telecommunication companies to ensure internet connectivity for the dissemination of course materials.

“In particular, the government must invest especially in digitizing the delivery of courses in the future not only to serve as an alternative should future shocks similar to this pandemic happen, but also as one of the means to deliver courses during normal times,” the brief concludes. 

[READ: ‘See you online, class’: Learning continues for Filipino pupils on alternative platforms]

DepEd officials have acknowledged the challenges of online learning, saying that they are also providing flexible learning materials such as the aforementioned television and radios, as well as printed materials delivered to students’ homes. They are also utilizing their learning portal DepEd Commons which has been made accessible via cellphones without data charges.

The policy brief can be accessed on ADMU’s Department of Economics website.



Header photo courtesy of Richard A. Reyes Inquirer.net

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TAGS: admu Ateneo de Manila University education nostudentleftbehind online classes