The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the evolution of education and has underscored the important role of customization, technology, and mobile devices in learning continuity in the country.
This was one of the key discussion points at the recently concluded virtual round table “Education During Trying Times” hosted by the Philippine Press Institute, which brought together stakeholders from the Department of Education (DepEd), the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) and the country’s telco companies, including PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart)
“We are in an era of technology and digitalization. Let us maximize all of these and continue to help each other and find solutions to the challenges being faced by the education sector,” said Dr. Dr Ethel Agnes P. Valenzuela, SEAMEO secretariat director, who likewise discussed the state of Philippine education vis-a-vis that of the country’s ASEAN neighbors.
As the leading digital services companies Philippines, PLDT and its wireless unit Smart are in a unique position to promote technology in learning. Working closely with the DepEd, PLDT and Smart have rolled out platforms to aid learning in the new normal.
“We have provided a slew of solutions that can be used for different teaching modalities to support DepEd’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP),” said Stephanie Orlino, PLDT-Smart AVP for Community partnerships.
According to Jesus Lorenzo R. Mateo, DepEd Usec. for Planning, Human Resource and Organizational Development, and Field Operations, “The BE-LCP is guided by certain principles of governance—the safety of our teachers, students and employees and the contextualization of teaching modalities to ensure learning continuity.”
“For online, we have device and connectivity partnerships with Google and Microsoft, prepaid Giga Study bundles that our mobile users can subscribe to, and the Gabay Guro app which can be used by teachers, students, and even parents. For the modular approach, materials of our crisis-resilient methodology—the Central Visayan Institute Foundation-Dynamic Learning Program (CVIF-DLP), are now available at the DepEd Commons. Our broadcast unit, Cignal, is also streaming content for the DepEd. And, to reach off-grid, last mile schools, we have the School-in-a-Bag,” Orlino added.
“Scarcity has challenged us to be more creative. Our educators have become more innovative and resourceful in communicating with their learners. We welcome this openness to innovation and encourage stakeholders to continue to share and showcase their strategies that can make a difference in Philippine education,” said Diosdado M. San Antonio, DepEd Usec. for Curriculum and Instruction.
Just recently, Smart turned over to the DepEd, 15 units of the School-in-a-Bag, a portable digital classroom designed to support distance learning, even in remote areas without electricity and internet connectivity. Specially designed for online learning under the new normal, each water-resistant backpack contains a laptop, a Smart pocket WiFi kit, 20 student tablets that are pre-loaded with educational content—including mother tongue-based literacy apps and modules of CVIF-DLP.
The CVIF-DLP is a pandemic-resilient strategy that supports home learning, promotes independent learning, and works in various online and offline delivery modalities. It is one of only three supplemental learning materials being endorsed by the DepEd for this school year. The CVIF-DLP Learning Activity Sheets for Junior and Senior High School can now be downloaded for free from DepEd Commons at www.commons.deped.gov.ph.
These solutions are envisioned to benefit about 25 million students who went back to school last October 5.
“Even before the pandemic, the EduKALIDAD advocacy of DepEd is anchored on four key pillars—the contextualization of the K-12 curriculum; the improvement of facilities to create an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning; the skills enhancement of our teachers to ensure efficient delivery of the K-12 curriculum; and the engagement of partners. And all these pillars are being addressed through our collaboration with the country’s telcos. We would like to thank our partners who continue to work with us in ensuring that learning continues even during the pandemic,” said Tonisito M.C. Umali, Esq., DepEd Usec. for Legislative Affairs, External Partnerships and Project Management Service.
Since the start of the COVID-19 health crisis, PLDT and Smart have stepped up education efforts to provide relevant tools, technologies, and information during the worldwide health crisis. Aside from the School-in-a-Bag donation and implementation of the CVIF-DLP, the Group facilitated zero-rating of the DepEd Commons online platform for subscribers to gain free access to lessons, provided communications support to DepEd’s frontliners, launched free airing of DepEd TV in two channels of affiliate company Cignal TV Inc., and released the Gabay Guro one-stop-app for digital educational resources in time for World Teachers Day 2020.
To date, PLDT, Smart and various donors have deployed 300 portable digital classrooms to DepEd schools, which have helped bridge the digital divide for more than 80,000 underserved students and over 2,000 teachers nationwide.