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A Way Forward for the Cyber Ed Project

The View From Pacol

HOW can we make the Cyber Education Project (CEP) more attuned to Philippine realities on the ground? In my weblog, I already discussed opposing views on the CEP, its upsides and downsides, and the institutional requirements to make it work. Let me outline how we can move it forward.

Its core should focus on high school. The technology is best suited to high school students. Having the country’s top scientists, mathematicians and educators as resource persons will make sense. And by doing so, it will dramatically bring down the cost, probably in the neighborhood of its original P5-billion price tag.

It should go hand in hand with the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP). If the DLP can work in a small peripheral school like the Jagna, Bohol-based Central Visayas Institute of the Bernido couple, it can work in most other rural high school outside the 1st and 2nd-class cities of the country. But the DepEd must reengineer its policies around the DLP.

It should be made optional for the elementary level. As it stands, the CEP is the wrong response to the wrong problem. This has two dimensions:

One, from the DepEd slides on CEP, among its premises is the poor holding power of the public school system—that only 7 out of every 10 who enters Grade I will finish Grade VI (which I already discussed in my July 23-29, 2007 column).

If access is a problem, the response should be to address the factors that prevent parents from maintaining their kids in school, not a enormously costly multimedia project like the CEP. It requires engaging local communities – the parents especially – to own the problem and help minimize dropouts.

And two, if a modern ICT-based distance education were to work well at the high school level, one needs elementary graduates proficient in basic literacy and numeracy skills. And this requires going back to the basics – the hands-on in-your-face effort to teach the child how to read, write and do ‘rithmetic. Nothing beats a classroom teacher, and parental involvement at home, in this respect.

But, if a local community – say, a city like Naga – were to demand to have the CEP serve its elementary schools, particularly the upper grades, because it can provide counterpart funding and its school heads are committed to make it work, then by all means DepEd should make the project available. This is the demand-driven criterion I was talking about.

It should work closely with barangay councils. The CEP to be thoroughly useful should have an alternative learning option, a strong ALS component to borrow the educator’s language. Hence, it should also provide for community, instead of school-based delivery, that will capture all those that drop out of the formal schooling system.