Growth in the information and communications and technology (ICT) sector has been targeted as a major growth area by the government. Just recently, the Central Luzon Cyber Corridor, one of five Super Regions planned by the government, has been touted to be “an oasis of hope” in the face of the global economic meltdown. Its vision is simple: build more business process outsourcing centers a.k.a call centers not only in so-called science parks within Metro Manila but also in the provinces around the country.
Yet despite this push, there are various problems that deter the implementation of these initiatives and make ICT go beyond providing services. We have to address deep rooted problems not only in the education and preparation of our computer and information technologists but also in the industrial base that demands their expertise.
According to a 2002 survey on the use of ICT in 100 Philippine public secondary schools, in the majority of high schools less than half of their teachers and students are able to use the computer as an educational tool. Besides the usual productivity tools (i.e. word processing, excel, slide presentations), computers in public high schools are seldom used for other purposes.
Most elementary and secondary school teachers do not receive sufficient training to operate the programs which they can use in teaching science and mathematics. The costly training on the use of various proprietary software and the expensive upgrading of these software make such program unsustainable. We also lack a clear and effective ICT integration in the educational system.
The availability and variety of subject-specific educational software or computer-assisted instruction (CAI) are also limited. Source materials are usually not converted to digital form or translated to a different language other than the student’s mother tongue. In available CAI materials, the promotion of a scientific culture and the integration of science and mathematics concepts to our daily lives here in the Philippines remain very weak.
Then there is the lack of computers and information access around the country. Even if government were to earmark money for computers in all elementary schools and high schools, more than half of these public schools all over the country don’t have electricity. Add to these the limited access of public schools to broadband Internet as well as the small percentage of the Philippine public schools with phone lines, which can be used for dial up connection.
The Department of Education (DepEd) defines information and communication technologies (ICTs) as the diverse set of technological tools and resources used to communicate, and to create, disseminate, store, and manage information, such as computers, the Internet, radio, television, telephones, and audiovisual equipment. ICT can support a qualitative shift in the learning process, facilitate access to education, and improve administrative and instructional efficiency.
Government has several ICT projects in education. There was the plan to implement a Cyber Education Project to broadcast clips of live classes to students all over the country using satellite technology. This is on top of around 18 ICT-based education programs being implemented by different government agencies. In an ongoing review of the use of ICT in basic science and mathematics education, teachers that we interviewed see these initiatives being similar to an “Encyclopedia Britannica CD.”
In this year alone, the DepEd announced plans to spend P2 billion as part of a five-year Information and Communications Technology for Education (ICT4E) strategic plan. It includes activities to integrate ICT into the curriculum among others. This curriculum reform’s initial stage will be to integrate ICT into the existing curriculum.
The Philippine education system, particularly in science and mathematics education, has been facing a number of challenges these past decades, which have not been addressed up to the present. Positioning ICT as the primary tool for basic education like the Cyber Education Project) is a misguided notion. However, it does have a clear role in developing creative ways in delivering basic education instruction. ICT is not a magic bullet for success.
While ICT can help in improving the delivery of basic education in science and mathematics, the government still has to address the root causes of poor basic education in the country. Filipino students score poorly in science and mathematics not only because they lack exposure to new and high tech teaching aids but also because of the generally backward state of our science and technology. Before ICT can be fully utilized, teachers, classrooms, books, and educational materials should be adequate. Education should be a right of every Filipino and the government should not just be paying lip service to this responsibility.
(Mr. Rick Bahague, an AGHAM member, is the Coordinator of the Computer Professional’s Union and is working on a project regarding the effective use of ICT in science education). — Ricardo Bahague Jr., Manila Times