E-learning as a viable tool for basic education

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By Alexander Villafania

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA — The Philippines has at least 12 million elementary public school students as of 2007 and another 6 million for high school. The problem is compounded by the lack of school teachers.

According to the Department of Education, the ratio is pegged at 35 students per teacher for the elementary level. In some areas, the ratio is higher, especially when teachers depart for other schools, if not other professions. In addition, the Philippines only spends about P140 billion for education per year, or only about 2.5 percent of the country’s growth domestic product. In fact, the education system in the Philippines has gotten worse, according to a report by the Human Development Network at the University of the Philippines. Its head, Solita “Winnie” Monsod, described the situation as an “education crisis.”

Despite dire reports, there are already some programs aimed at solving the issue. While majority of existing e-learning programs are actually conducted by schools such as the University of the Philippines Open University and Ateneo De Manila’s  Asian Center for Journalism, there are already some attempts at creating an online learning environment for basic education.

Most of these programs are privately funded and some are even extension programs of publishing firms. For instance, Diwa Asia Publishing, which prints out the school textbooks and the once-popular Batobalani, had started an online learning management application called Genyo that is targeted at elementary schools.

Genyo allows online and real-time interaction among students and their teachers and is effective for students who cannot be physically present at school. However, it also enhances students’ abilities to learn in a new environment by providing them online materials they can access anytime.

Diwa has also launched its own online resource portal called Diwa Learning Town, which contains thousands of published Diwa materials. In addition to the text content, the Diwa Learning Town also enhanced their content with video and audio on some of the topics.

Diwa Vice President Jose Ma. Policarpio said the Genyo project can offer schools alternative methods of teaching basic education. He also noted that the cost of implementing an online learning project is no longer prohibitive, especially as cost of equipment and Internet connectivity continue to go down.

Another publishing firm that has started offering online learning sources is Vibal Publishing. Their project is caled E-Turo, which is more of a collaborative program for educators to create modules that can be taught in schools. The materials are either in Filipino or English and are free for download. Subjects covered include English, Filipino, mathematics, science, humanities and history.

Other private firms are supporting online learning programs. For instance, microprocessor company Intel and the Department of Education have launched Skool.ph that has vast resources on mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics. It also has curriculum and exams managament options for teachers.

The use of online technology in teaching in basic education is still in its infancy, especially as education institutions are still trying to find the best possible ways to implement a proper e-learning environment without sacrificing the ability to learn. Nevertheless, the future holds a lot of hope for improving the country’s educational system using available online technology.

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