Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Sunday, October 29, 2006

EDITORIAL — Promoting computer literacy

The Philippine Star

The private sector and foreign governments are pitching in to improve Filipino students’ access to computers, with Ayala Corp. launching a program to set up computer laboratories in 1,000 public schools. The program is most welcome; on the same day it was launched, the Department of Education disclosed that there is only one computer for every 25,000 pupils in public elementary schools.

The situation is slightly better in public high schools, where there is one computer for every 111 students and one for every three teachers, DepEd officials said. But at both primary and secondary levels, public schools lack educational software especially in subjects that require local content such as Social Studies. There are also no guidelines or specific curricula to integrate computer use into the teaching of school subjects.

Another problem is that many public school teachers themselves lack training in information technology and cannot teach students how to use computers. Many teachers cannot handle IT-enhanced subjects. Language is another major obstacle. While certain Internet sites use Tagalog, English remains the lingua franca of IT, and many public school teachers across the country lack the necessary proficiency in English to use computers as an effective educational tool.

In certain conflict areas in Mindanao, US troops and aid workers are jump-starting the introduction of young students to the Internet as a learning tool, donating computers with Internet connection to public schools and training a pool of teachers to handle computer-enhanced subjects. The Philippines cannot match the resources of Uncle Sam, but the computer literacy program can be replicated on a limited scale across the country.

Poverty has already created a wide educational divide between millions of students from low-income families and those who can afford quality education in exclusive schools. The failure to provide computer literacy programs to the majority of Filipino students is widening this educational divide. The government must move quickly to stop the gap from growing wider.