Thailand offering free internet for poor students amid Covid-19 pandemic

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MANILA –The Department of Education (DepEd) is yet to decide on at least two things.  The first is the date of class opening, and the second is whether it will be the “school-as-usual,” “virtual digital classrooms and schools,” or a combination of both.

DepEd Secretary Leonor “Liling” Magtolis Briones said on May 6 that private schools could start online classes as early as June if allowed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).  “Private schools who want to open in June as the traditional schedule of school opening, may do so if allowed by the IATF and the Department of Health (DOH) guidelines,” she said.

She also clarified that the start of classes as earlier announced by DepEd on August 24, would apply to both public and private schools. The existing law that governs school opening sets the date on any day between June 1 and August 30.  But due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic that hit the country, congress is contemplating of postponing it to a later date.

The “new normal” of education is not yet certain, although there are indications that schools may devise alternative ways of educating children and young people like virtual online classes through the internet.  Secretary Briones said they are still finalizing the Learning Continuity Plan (LCP), which will detail changes in policy and practices necessary to ensure education will continue amid the pandemic.

The immediate challenges are two folds. These are the issue of connectivity and adaptability, which includes the capacity of families to acquire the needed hardware and paraphernalia, and the other is readiness of children to use the system. But the Philippines is not alone in this predicament. Other countries have the same challenges too and are confronting the issues head on for the future of their children.

In a published report, the Education Ministry of Thailand has called on the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry to provide internet connections to underprivileged students so they can study online via channels assigned by the government during the crisis period.

The said ministry provides free internet connections for homes that are not linked up.  They have also talked to their National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission for improved connectivity in areas where signal is not good and if such services to students can be provided by private internet providers or Telecommunication Companies. Perhaps DepEd can get a cue from this initiative of Thailand.