Wider coverage of free Wi-Fi in public schools pushed
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Saturday expressed optimism for better coverage in the coming year through his revived proposal to accelerate the installation of free Wi-Fi in public schools nationwide.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, hopes that his Senate Bill No. 383, or the Digital Transformation in Basic Education Act, will improve the low free Wi-Fi coverage in schools, which has covered only 860 of the country’s 47,421 schools nationwide, or a measly 1.8 percent coverage.
According to the senator, the lessons that the pandemic taught policymakers should become a yardstick for what the Department of Education needs to catch up on in providing students free internet access.
“If we look back at what the pandemic taught us, it would be how vital internet technology has become in continuing education, especially in times of crises,” he said.
He said part of the thrust in trying to achieve stability in education is to ensure that schools get free internet access to ensure the delivery of quality education.
Gatchalian earlier lamented how the free public internet dashboard showed a low completion rate five years after the Republic Act No. 10929, or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, was passed into law.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the digital divide among learners, which mostly affected students in poorer households.
Gatchalian cited a 2021 survey on low-income households by the World Bank, which revealed that only 40 percent have access to the internet.
The same survey also revealed that 95.5 percent of these poorer households used paper-based learning modules and materials, he said.
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