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One Tablet, One Student Act proposed in Senate

Senator Nancy Binay has filed a bill seeking to provide tablets or similar devices to each public school student to ensure quality education while the system shifts to blended learning or purely remote learning modality.

Binay has filed Senate Bill 2454 or the proposed "One Tablet, One Student Act" to provide each public elementary and secondary student as well [as] students enrolled in state universities and colleges a tablet computer each to “enable them to effectively participate in online learning.”

Under the bill, the students who already have their own personal learning gadgets shall be given educational assistance in the form of an internet allowance to cover the expenses for their connectivity.

The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education will be tasked to implement the One Tablet, One Student program.

They will be mandated to develop a comprehensive system to determine the eligibility of students who will be qualified for the said program, develop an efficient and expeditious distribution system, and formulate guidelines on usage, maintenance, and accountability for the tablets.

The bill will require a budget of P200 billion pesos from the National Treasury for the initial implementation of the program. After the initial phase, the budgetary needs of the program will be included in the annual national budget.

Once enacted, the DepEd, CHED, in coordination with the local government units, through the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Information and Communications Technology, will provide the implementing rules and regulations of the law not later than 30 days upon its effectivity.

In her explanatory note, Binay said the shift to “digitally dependent learning models” which are implemented to protect the students from COVID-19, “exposed challenges to internet access and availability of computers or personal learning gadgets.”

She cited a report from World Bank, which stated that the health crisis “has starkly highlighted the inequalities in digital access and that ‘business as usual’ will not work for the delivery of education to all children.”

The WB further said that that focus must be placed in bridging gaps in digital infrastructure such as connectivity, devices, and software; human infrastructure such as teacher capacity, student skills, and parental support; and logistical and administrative systems to deploy and maintain tech architecture.

This will close the “digital divides in education and leverage the power of technology to accelerate learning, reduce learning poverty, and support skills development.”

The lawmaker also took note of another WB report on the Philippine Digital Economy for 2020 which indicated that the digital divide in the Philippines is large with nearly 60 percent of households not having internet access, and unable to reap the benefits of digitalization.

“As a result, face to face interactions and analog practices largely dominate in the Philippines, making social distancing economically costly,” the WB report, as cited by Binay, said.

In the current academic year, Binay, citing data from DepEd and CHED, said there are around 27 million elementary and high school students who were enrolled. Meanwhile, there are approximately 1.6 million students enrolled in SUCs and local colleges and universities.

“This staggering number of students who need tablets does not even include their teachers who are likewise in need of such devices,” Binay said.

"In line with the State's mandate to provide quality education at all levels, this bill seeks to aid students enrolled in public schools and SUCs by giving them tablets or similar learning devices,” she added.—AOL, GMA News