Cyber Education Project: The best response to challenges in Philippine education?

There are two ways to take a critical look at the controversial Cyber Education Project (CEP) (See the slide below). One is the process by which it was crafted and peddled in public. The other is its feasibility in the Philippine context. This article attempts the second.

An ordinary folk surely asks: What is that thing called Cyber Education Project? I don’t have an easy answer but based on my copy of the electronic presentation prepared by the Department of Education (DepEd), which unfortunately does not give a one-liner definition of it, I define it as one that provides basic education to all areas in the country through a satellite technology that connects in real time all DepEd offices and public schools, which use hi-technology multimedia devices to facilitate learning process. (Caveat: This definition has to be checked against the expected reach of the project. See below.)

The project contextualizes itself within the challenges in education, namely, low academic performance of students, significant drop-outs, and big population of out-of-school youths and functionally-illiterate adults. Thirty-percent and 60% of children entering Grade 1 do not finish elementary and high school, respectively. Mentioned in the reasons for drop-outs were lack of pre-school preparation, disinterest in the lessons, poverty, malnutrition, and transportation problems.

The rationale cites the difficulty for the DepEd to service the 9.16 million functional illiterates and 12.24 million illiterate youths and adults with its insufficient resources (800 mobile teachers and 0.17% of the department’s budget used for the alternative learning system).

And here’s the proposed solution: Reach the illiterate youths and adults with the aid of electronic multi-media technology. Better yet, use a satellite technology that connects all schools in real time so that contents and processes are standardized. Thus, the CEP proposal, with China’s Tsinghua University as the major partner to lead in the turn-key setup. The Philippine government will rely on the university’s experience in satellite and long-distance education technologies.

The project targets to benefit not all of the public elementary and secondary schools, though, but only 37,794 or 90%. Only about 70% of the schools will be provided with satellite-based facilities. Likewise, if the slide presentation of DepEd is to be believed, only those “outside the 1st and 2nd class cities” will stand to benefit. I’m sure that this will invite backlash from the education personnel and Mayors of the excluded cities. It is not therefore true that the project will benefit all public schools.

The project also targets to reach at least 13 million students and 800 classes for out-of-school-youths.

To realize this project, a total of P26.48 billion is entailed over five years, with equipment and operating cost taking up the biggest share of the pie. To get the project rolling (for year 1), over P5 billion is required, to be sourced from USD100 million soft loan from the Chinese government plus Philippine government’s counterpart of P1.3 billion. DepEd boasts that the investment per pupil is P1.22 per day compared to P15 per hour spent in an Internet cafe. Over five years, the average cost per student per day is 64 centavos.

The projected impact of the CEP on public education consists of improved student performance, savings of up to P60.3 billion in DepEd operations, and new possibilities for the Philippine education sector.

While they are not averse to the role of ICT to supplement Philippine education, various civil society organizations have already raised their criticisms of the project. These focused on a) the unnecessarily high cost of investments, without really building on the existing or previous ICT projects, b) DepEd’s lack of capacity to handle the project, and c) the project’s apparent romance with ICT for its ability to replace face-to-face education activities. (I have with me the draft briefing paper but I don’t have the permission yet to publish it here.)

I agree 100% on the criticisms. I also want to build on some of their criticisms and add mine. Yes, government is wont to introducing a project as if it were novel and had no relation whatsoever to the related previous ones. The CEP has been packaged as though projects like “PCs for Public Schools”, e-skwela, and GILAS have failed. If indeed these projects have failed, then the more the government has no right to delve into this grandiose, waste-of-money undertaking.

Moreover, the CEP is deemed as though it is a stand-alone project. It doesn’t recognize the roles that other stakeholders should play, like LGUs that should ensure sturdier school buildings and stable supply of electricity in far-flung areas and NGOs that could assist mobile teachers in reaching out to out-of-school adults and youths.

The DepEd lacks more plausible ways of convincing people about the project’s cost of investment. Surely, the claim that tens of billions of pesos will be saved in the deparment’s operations sounds like the savings could be used for other noble purposes. But comparing the cost per pupil from the hourly rental fee of Internet cafes is purely ridiculous. Who in this earth has proposed to the government to subsidize students’ Internet cafe activities? And will the CEP’s studios provide the same serendipitous learning that Internet cafes are able accord their student customers?

The CEP claims to be the best solution in addressing the challenges of in Philippine education, which includes poverty, malnutrition, and transportation problems. But how? I wonder if it can really fill in these gaps. Note that the (additional) 800 classes intended for OSYs are set up right in the elementary schools, not in areas closer to the OSYs. So the project’s claim that it will “provide 12 video channels, wireless wide-area networking, local area networking and wireless internet all in one package to the remotest area of the country” is all but propaganda. Poor, mobile teachers, they’ll remain to fend for themselves.

Now, about the equipment. By estimate, a multimedia classroom will cost almost half a million pesos. That is really high considering that half that amount is sufficient enough. That would reduce the project’s cost by over P5 billion.

Clearly, Congress must hold an inquiry into the CEP. It must give it the same importance it has given to the NBN/ZTE deal. Besides, the CEP and NBN/ZTE are closely linked to each other.

Before the government is allowed to implement this kind of huge project, it must:

  1. Give a full accounting of its ICT projects, including their impact.
  2. Have clear guidelines on how the project will be implemented, including procurement of equipment and the software applications that will be used. The guidelines must be clear about open standards, including the software source codes and document formats.
  3. Come up with a feasibility study, which should include DepEd’s capacity to implement the project as well as the project’s assumptions and risk analysis.

Unless the abovementioned are done, the CEP will be another scam in Philippine history. And no one will bear the brunt but the tax-paying Filipino citizens, rich or poor.

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18 comments

  1. my concern about CEP is that it’s only guaranteed result in an upgrade in technology in the philippine education system, nothing more. it does not ensure an increase in turn up for pupils in public schools simply because enrolment is NOT a function of technological advancements. parents don’t decide to send their kids to school just because there is CEP, there are various factors why only 7 out of 10 grade 1 pupils finishes grade school. for instance, some parents really do not see the value of education, some may not be able to afford to sustain the expenses for 6 elementary years (aside from tuition, consider the fact that some public school teachers have a load of fees they impose on classrooms like floorwax, and cleaning stuffs, and “projects”) and some just don’t exhaust all options in order to send their kids to school.

    availability of technology is not equal to guranteed comprehension. we have to consider the quality of our public school teachers and their “passion for teaching”. some teachers have gone tired, if i may say so, in teaching. during my grade school time, some teachers would just send us to the principal’s office (where the vcr was) and play some sineskwela tape. our current discussion then wasn’t even in line with what we were watching. our teachers wouldn’t as much as lift a finger to explain things we watched on tv. most of the time they weren’t even there with us.

    the point is, the availability of this technology would be useless if not all teachers are in the same page in instilling knowledge among pupils. teachers need values rehabilitation and even evaluation programs so that they remain “hands on” and true to their jobs and so the promises of technologies such as CEP would really be ripped by the pupils.

  2. i think there is the need for a massive training in computer-assisted instruction among our teachers, to adapt this program in our schools both private and public.

  3. the only thing i can say about the project is that it’s perfect, seriouly.
    Still, even if a project is perfect if the people in charge are what we call “bwaya”, there would be no sense whatsoever.
    ofcourse we can all see the “pagiging buaya” of most of the people that are sittind in the government.

  4. hi can u help me for these following questions?
    1)what is the purpose of the CEP
    2)In what platform will the CEP run

    that’s it pls help me the due date is on friday december 11,2007,, thank u, may god bless you

    just send it to me if u knoew the ansrs i kept searching but i cant relly find it
    send it to krissford_ulat@yahoo.com

    thank u again

  5. please send me an answer about this issue. according to what i have read, it almost take a decade for china to accomplish and put program for one computer, I mean one program for one subject.

    and are those tweve channels can give all the necessary subjects for highschools, grade schools and college students? because looking at the coures of the college students, there are more than twelve.

  6. personally, i completely disagree to the fact they’re going to launch this project. I mean… c’mon… how many years does it have to take for the government to address the basic issues? sure it’s a great way to boost the technology here in the Philippines.. but hey, how can that be possible if the government can’t even find a better solution to basic school needs…

    i read before that the basis is going to be 1:200… 1 tv per 200 students… what the?! that’s like watching a movie only in a small screen.. where do they even plan to place 200 students when there’s still the lack of classrooms…

    and they say that it will be successful because Thailand did the same thing and theirs was a success… that’s not a really good basis for comparison…

    all i can conclude is that it’s very tiring to always hear the government that this project will be a success and would alleviate poverty – how can they do that anyway?

  7. cyber ed is important 4 students like me… we still need a technology assistace… with all the projects that we need to finish…………ohh… come on you guyz… this can help the young minds….. the kabataan ay ang kinabukasan ng bayan….. diba

  8. if this project launched siguradong may corruption ulit na sangkot dito!!! but da advantage, may possibility na makakahabol ang pinas sa technology ngayon… technology rising up! up to now, marami pa rin ang illiterate sa modern tech sa pinas.. kaya mahirap makapaghanap ng mga trabaho ang mga pinoy na programmers sa ibang bansa dahil di tayo nakakapantay sa knowledge at credibility ng mga dayuhan pagdating sa technology

  9. it’s sad that government projects that would really benefit the Filipino people are often riddled by “commissions”, “cuts” and other anomalies šŸ˜¦

  10. The Chinese C E P, is a rudimentary take-off of a not- yet discovered, mass educational system, copyrighted 1978, entitled The Ideal Educational System/Two Teachers in Every Classroom (TTEC).Unfortunately, C E P is far ahead of any mass-educational system, anywhere in the world today.
    For the best educational system, ever devised, and the FUTURE educational system of choice go to cifaldi.org Clik on Files Clik on TTEC Update 95 Pages

  11. Sources here please? Where’d you get those kind of information? Is it legit? I know this article is old but I need your help. I would be doing a research about cyber education.

  12. I think there are still a lot of problems in the Philippines that the government should focus on… Cyber Education might be an advancement in technology…but come on guys as you can see many of us can already access the internet. Plus the fact that based on the proposal it will reach far flung areas?? are we going to be fooled by that?? how can it be possible wherein many provinces in the Philippines does not have electricity…will it be possible to reach them? The fact that we will pay China (debt) about 26.4 billion (for 30 years) will add on our countries loan again?????? why not invest it to teach Filipinos and invent our own.

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