Education chief wants CyberEd project

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — EDUCATION Secretary Jesli Lapus is leaving the future of his department’s P26.4-billion cyber-education project up to the President even as he insisted the program will benefit millions of students.

“I’ll leave it to the better judgment of the President and the National Economic Development Authority,” Lapus said.

He also brushed aside calls by militant teachers to “drop the CyberEd project and address the basic needs of the public school system instead.”

“We advise Secretary Lapus to take his badly misplaced enthusiasm and zeal for the CEP and devote them instead to lobbying Congress for higher salaries for teachers, the elimination of teacher, classroom and textbook shortages, abolition of various fees in public schools and more direct subsidies to poor school children who are most at risk of dropping out, and so on,” the 15,000-strong Alliance of Concerned Teachers said in a statement.

The project was suspended by Mrs. Arroyo following the political noise created by the canceled $329.4-million ZTE broadband deal.

Some political quarters and militant organizations alleged that the project is yet another “white elephant” that will burden taxpayers in the future.

Lapus said students will benefit from the cyber-education project because it will also involve the training of teachers to create and deliver methods of teachings via cyberspace.

With the project hanging, Lapus said his department was left with no other choice but to continue and develop small scale IT tie-ups.

“The entire education system will still be deprived,” he lamented.

This year alone, the department has allotted some P280 million for its computerization program.

“Government funding for IT-related projects totaled P370 million in 2005 and 2006. Through national government appropriations, infusions from the Japanese government and support from local government units and the private sector, DepEd has provided computer laboratories to at least 73 percent of public high schools nationwide,” Lapus said.

“Also, 30 percent of public high schools have been provided with Internet connections, while 15 percent of schools have local area networks. An additional 5,280 computers will be procured to achieve a 100-percent computer coverage of public high schools,” he added.

Lapus said the nation would eventually embrace CyberEd, as “we live in a world where information reigns… We should have done this a long time ago. We just have to wait out this negative environment.”

“Everybody is going there. Other countries have this already. Thailand has this for 12 years already. In fact, they are offering to help us with content development. The Philippines is already way behind neighboring countries in Asia,” he said.

The project aims to link all local administrative units of the department, including the main office, its 17 regional offices, 187 division offices and the more than 37,000 public schools nationwide.

According to the department plans, the project will be implemented in partnership with Tsinghua University, said to be China ‘s top technology institution. Tsinghua also manages the China Education and Research Network that covers over 320 million beneficiaries.