Graphics by Renz Joshua Palalimpa

As online learning becomes the ‘new normal’ for education, lack of access to technology may jeopardize the education of around 5,600 scholars across the University of the Philippines system.

Of the 5,600 Iskolar ng Bayan, 4,000 no longer have reliable access to online resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the UP Media and Public Relations Office.

A whopping 1,600 have no access to any technological tools and resources at all, drastically increasing their likelihood of dropping out.

UP Diliman Student Councilor for Student Rights and Welfare Tierone Santos stated that this is one of several issues that the university administration must address concretely before proceeding with resumption of classes.

“‘Yung main concern talaga dito ay yung kahirapan din ng students to learn with ‘alternative learning.’ Although not openly sinabi na online classes siya, most of the time ay naka-depend siya sa resources na accessible lang through online means,” he said.

VP for Academic Affairs Cynthia Bautista stated in a June 29 Town Hall discussion on UP’s online learning plans that ‘remote learning’ does not solely mean online classes conducted in real time.

“Remote teaching and learning covers the entire spectrum of asynchronous (not real time) and synchronous learning. It does not only mean online. Remote teaching includes giving you materials,” she elaborated.

Beyond issues of access, it is possible that remote learning will dilute the quality of education, especially for courses involving heavy onground practical requirements,  Santos explained.

He also emphasized that the university administration must first ensure financial assistance as socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely push many students to sacrifice studies to look for work.

An April 8 survey conducted by the UP Diliman University Student Council among 8,079 students revealed that continuing online learning is the students’ least preferred choice. 

Majority of the student respondents had only low to moderate levels of internet access in their respective provinces, and did not see their homes as conducive for learning.

The Board of Regents in April decided to end the semester to “reduce the growing anxiety of students and faculty on one hand, and enable their COVID-related engagements.”

With classes set to open September 10, the university vowed to provide learning assistance grants, including provision of gadgets to students in need. 

The university will also create a network of student and graduate assistants to support students through remote learning, AVP for Academic Affairs (Student Affairs) Richard Gonzalo said in the Town Hall meeting.

The UP System has also launched “Kaagapay sa Pag-aaral ng Iskolar ng Bayan,” a fundraising and resource-generating donation drive aiming to “equip financially-challenged students with the computers or laptops and internet connectivity they need to pursue their degrees.”

A screenshot of the “Kaagapay sa Pag-aaral ng Iskolar ng Bayan” donation drive page shows that donors can choose to donate as much as P110,000 to grant a student four-year financial support.

Donors may select “gifts” to donate to students ranging from a Php 100 Gift Card to a Php 110,000 package equivalent to four-year support for one student. 

With reports from Jan Cuyco 


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