Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking increased government support for the transition to flexible learning of small and medium-sized private universities amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

A flexible approach to teaching and learning means students can learn when, where and how they prefer it to be.

“Without the systems and expertise to implement remote learning, the students of these small schools would eventually suffer.”

In a Senate panel hearing, Gatchalian raised that these smaller institutions have limited financial capacity and technical expertise to install online and flexible learning systems.

“Without the systems and expertise to implement remote learning, the students of these small schools would eventually suffer,” the veteran legislator said.

According to Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Prospero De Vera III, there are more than 1,000 small private universities with around 525,000 students nationwide. De Vera added that there are more students enrolled in private higher education institutions (HEIs) than in public tertiary institutions.

Based on CHED data, there are 1,833,170 students (53.87 percent) enrolled in private HEIs as compared to 1,575,645 (46.22 percent) who are enrolled in public institutions.

“I found out that an online system is very expensive.”

The CHED chairman added that while free software can be used to develop learning management systems, small private universities tend to have a shortage in hardware and manpower for these systems.

“I found out that an online system is very expensive. It’s not cheap,” the seasoned lawmaker said during the hearing, citing the experience of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela, which recently subscribed to an application to deliver full online learning.

“Smaller universities may have a difficult time in acquiring an online system. My fear is if we don’t help the small, medium private universities, more than 50 percent of the population in our universities will be affected,” the senator added.

Under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Senate Bill No. 1564) or Bayanihan 2.0, P3 billion is allocated to create “smart” campuses in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). This entails investments in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, acquisition of learning management systems, and other equipment to implement flexible learning. CHED, however, seeks to expand the coverage of this budget so that small private universities will also be covered.

To help learning institutions affected by lockdown measures, Bayanihan 2.0 also seeks to develop a loan program by appropriate government financial institutions (GFIs) to help academic institutions prepare for the implementation of blended learning.

For Gatchalian, the challenges hounding the education sector add urgency to enacting Bayanihan 2.0, which will finally make much-needed funding available for academic institutions ahead of the school year’s opening.

“Ang pagkakaroon ng moderno at matatag na sistema ng edukasyon ay mahalaga sa pagbangon ng ating bansa mula sa mga naging epekto ng pandemya. Hindi na natin dapat paghintayin pa ang modernisasyon ng ating mga paaralan, kabilang ang ating mga pamantasan, upang maipagpatuloy natin ang edukasyon at matugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating mga mag-aaral,” he concluded.


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