Digital Technology access for Education

As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to spread in different countries around the world, the new normal will involve higher levels of health precautions. Fearing another wave of infections, government will continue to enforce strict measures to contain the spread of the virus. Digital technology will play a greater role to ensure that essential sectors such as business, banking, health, food services, and communication will continue to run their transactions in order to avoid a possible national economic breakdown.

 In the education sector, schools and universities are now crawling to enable digital and technical facilities that will support whatever form of virtual learning that they will most likely to adopt. Right now, online learning has been pushed further and deeper as a solution that addresses the challenges of learning continuity amidst school closure at this time of the pandemic. Virtual conferencing, which is being used to replace face-to-face instruction.

Access and usage to video-conferencing tools, as well as to learning management systems, have spiked tremendously as teaching and learning continue within the virtual corners of their online classrooms. Online learning has been a great means towards continuous learning. Bukidnon National High School were going to adopt this method and most of the private schools in this division. In the end, it seems like the new normal is about online learning and having the digital platforms and tools to support and enable learning. 

Yet, this new normal that is too much focused-on technology tools or online learning needs to be reconsidered and evaluated. Can we step back for a moment and think about those who will be marginalized and underserved in the new normal? Can we remind ourselves that our digital and telecommunications infrastructure cannot even decently connect every device in the country to the Internet? Can we wake ourselves up to the reality that not all students, parents, and homes have access to devices at home? Can we pinch ourselves to realize that a lot of Filipino families will undoubtedly use their hard-earned money to buy food and other basic needs that will help them go through the day instead of purchasing data to get online?

The pandemic has greatly highlighted the digital divide between the haves and the have nots, which we have been experiencing even before this unfortunate episode of our lives. Now more than ever, we realize that those who have access to a learning device and the Internet are the ones who will greatly benefit from the online learning programs that schools are working on.

The new normal should advocate for equitable access to online learning. If a school chooses to go online, then the school leaders, Teachers, Parents, external partners must work together and find a way to ensure that no student is left behind or barred from learning because of a preference to one mode of learning system. And address the challenging issues of technology and of remote learning in education.

Neil Librando Abao