I woke up this morning with an e-mail from Lester Cavestany, a teacher from the UNIS Hanoi, sending me a link to his article, Why We Should Support CyberEd. The recipients are undisclosed but in my case, it is clear why. At the end of his post he encourages everyone to show their support for the CyberEd. Even before I begin this, I say shoot it in the foot.
He presents seven points which at first glance present a clear and powerful case for CyberEd. However, after I wiped the sleepiness of my face (it is only 5:30am), I realized that these are arguments I have heard before. I offer my reaction to each of the seven points.
1) CyberEd will level the playing field
We all know that private schools are somewhat better than public schools. And urban public schools usually have higher standards than the ones in the rural areas.
The disparities can be lessened by CyberEd! By accessing short instructional videos presented by “master teachers”, public school students and teachers can increase their knowledge in the subject areas of Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. The “master teachers” will also prepare lesson plans that go with their videos so that public school teachers will be guided in their teaching. They will also have access to shared online resources including worksheets, websites, etc. As a teacher, I know that this kind of support will immediately increase the quality of teaching and learning, for sure!
MY REACTION: And this levels the playing field how? I think there is a confusion as to what exactly is the cause of this ‘uneveness’ in the playing field. It is neither content nor manner. What causes this uneveness is even more basic — infrastructure. The day all schools in the country have a 1 to 30 classroom to student ratio is the day I can call anything remotely leveled. Then of course there is the question of sanitation, food, and administrative competence — all things not addressed or “leveled” by the CEP. It is obvious that private schools have a higher standard than public schools. Why? Because they are able to. They are able to create the ideal learning environment and thus focus on education itself.
Now imagine a classroom in the mountain regions with no electricity, no water but with an abundance of mosquitoes and rebels on the run. Then the teacher turns on a small generator (the CEP package includes a generator, just in case) that now hums in the distance. They turn on the TV. The “master teacher” (I hate that phrase) begins his/her lecture on human genetics. The teacher is incredibly articulate and has a mastery of the subject matter, but the students don’t understand a word of English. Then they get bored since they’re just staring at a screen with just one guy talking for forty minutes. After which, the teacher begins to read the lesson plan on human genetics and struggles with it. She barely understands it herself and it is now 3PM and she’s still thinking about what to bring home for dinner.
So this CEP levels the playing field how? The way I see it, it will only further amplify this uneveness and thus degrade the already ineffective educational system we have. And even if we say that the CEP works, how can we be sure that its content is something everyone will be able to use? For this to truly make teaching equitable, teachers too have to be prepared to use them. They will have to be “master teachers” in their own right, and that is simply something the CEP does not provide for.
2) CyberEd will assist teacher-training
The “master teachers” in the instructional videos don’t have to be teachers. Some of them can be resource presenters. For example, the topic is about lawmaking, the presenter can be a senator. So, the public school teacher and the students learn first-hand from experts. Teachers will improve their subject-matter mastery and this will boost their confidence in teaching. Plus of course, with CyberEd, teachers can have access to online degrees to further their professional development.
Actually, no. The CEP provides no assistance to teachers whatsoever so I can simply sweep this point aside.
But since it makes a nice, warm and fuzzy point for us teachers, I’d just like to say that if the CEP works the way described above, then that would be nice. Having resource people who are actually involved with the subject matter is always interesting. However, I’d like us to have a more guarded optimism towards this. Teachers attend seminars, workshops and lectures all the time, and are engaged in these for hours on end, so I don’t expect a 40-minute TV show to magically improve everyone and whisk our problems away.
3) CyberEd will standardize education
Depending on its implementation, CyberEd can promote consistency in the standards of teaching and assessments in public schools. I can see the potential of having an online portal where teachers from anywhere in the country can access easy-to-use lesson plans and digital resources prepared by experts. We have a national curriculum but its delivery varies from school to school depending on available resources, human and/or financial. By using the same videos, lesson plans, and online resources, there can be more consistency in the delivery of the national curriculum. We are already seeing improvements in our students’ performance in the standardized tests, I’m sure we will see more when we implement CyberEd.
Oh, my. This is terrifying.
I apologize beforehand, but I am an opponent of strict standardization. I believe that education is not just about the message but the messenger. Just as how we teachers realize that all students learn differently, I also believe that all teachers teach differently. While I have no problem with benchmarks, I do have a problem with tyranny.
“By using the same videos, lesson plans, and online resources, there can be more consistency in the delivery of the national curriculum.”
Wow. Consistency. National curriculum. Reading these words, I tend to forget that we live in an archipelago with as many cultures as there are islands. Have you ever spoken to an Aeta about evolution? I have. And they don’t believe it. For them, it is another false religion since the truth — that man rose from the Earth and will return to it — comes so simply to them. It may sound absurd to us, but then we are not Aeta. We do not belong to the world they are in, and so what right do we have to tell them, “Hindi po yan ang nangyari…”
So why don’t we invite that senator to talk to the Aeta about how a bill becomes a law? Or let’s invite a Pisay geometry teacher to tell them about circle theory. We want to standardize education right? Even if it means alienating the very objects of education by making the material something completely irrelevant to them.
And don’t even get me started on the issue of language. Please.
It is this point alone that will keep me vehemently opposed to the Cyber Education Project.
4) CyberEd will improve communication
CyberEd will promote on-line networking among public schools and DepEd offices. Administrators and teachers will have access to email and websites. Memoranda, letters, reminders, and all kinds of messages will be communicated instantly. I don’t think there’s a need to point out the benefits of having direct communication in any organization, and in any relationship for that matter. It’s simply a must!
This point is controversial at the least. The CEP is tied into another controversial project, the NBN. And the big question about these projects is this — will the government commission a new network infrastructure or build on top of the existing ones established by private companies? This is a very hot topic for transparency and accountability.
And yes, the CEP will improve communication — for those teachers who know how to use the computer. Let’s teach them that first — too bad the CyberEducation Project doesn’t include that. I rest my case.
5) CyberEd will lessen our dependence on textbooks
Back in 2000, Microsoft’s Bill Gates predicted that “Less of the school budgets will be spent on textbooks and more on learning through technology.” Bill Gates’ dream is obviously a textbook publisher’s nightmare. I won’t be surprised to see some of the textbook publishers supporting protests against CyberEd. In the not-so-distant future, when we really get our act together, we may not even have to print documents because each public school student will have their own laptop. Believe it or not, many schools abroad are now providing a laptop for every student, as early as Grade 1.
It is no secret that I hate textbooks. But I dislike the CEP even more.
I don’t think that using textbooks for the primary level is a bad idea. Since the majority of our student populace is still learning how to read, write and hate math, it is good and feasible for us to invest in textbooks. Quite simply, the one laptop per child is still too far off for us.
Of course, the main issues with textbooks here in the Philippines would be (1) DepEd procurement and (2) inaccuracies. These two require different policy recommendations and the CEP is not one of them. To bring the content online and into the TV set is not how we solve corruption and reliance on lousy writers. For that we need better transparency mechanisms to ensure we get the books we need. And if that alone is too difficult for us to do, I wonder how it would be for more ambitious projects.
6) CyberEd will increase Internet access in the country, especially in rural areas
The December 2000 Report of the Web-Based Education Commission to the President and the Congress of the United States has this to say about the Power of the Internet for Learning: the Internet enables education to occur in places where there is none, extends resources where there are few, expands the learning day, and opens the learning place. It connects people, communities, and resources to support learning. It adds graphics, sound, video, and interaction to give teachers and students multiple paths for understanding. the Web is a medium today’s kids expect to use for expression and communication. Not surprisingly, the Commission made key recommendations that all point toward the implementation of tech projects with features similar to that of CyberEd’s.
What’s wrong with this picture? Right. It’s the United States’.
Internet penetration is not quite as ubiquitous here in the Philippines as it is in the United States. Not even all my students in PSHS have regular Internet access and they belong in the Middle Class and up. For this, we have to build up our fundamental IT and network infrastructure. The CEP alone will not increase Internet access in the country, and I am sure it hardly will.
According to the schematics of the CEP, not all schools in all rural areas will receive the project. Some schools will be part of a clustering system where students from different sitios will converge on one school with the CEP in place. How horrible is that? Besides walking two hours down the mountain to get to school, you walk another two hours to get to the city where an overpacked school awaits.
The CEP will use the Internet but it does not provide it. Yes, it relies on satellites to transmit lectures but for the Internet it will largely rely on either private sector networks or on the NBN which is good as dead. I can’t see how it will increase connectivity when it relies on what we have right now. Fixing that is something beyond the scope of the CEP.
7) CyberEd will help the marginalized and the disadvantaged!
Oxfam International says in their campaign, Education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty… Education is a key to enable poor individuals and marginalized communities to take control of their lives and stand up for their rights. – We all know that this is true. We can argue about the different paths to social development, but we all recognize the central role played by education in helping the poor help themselves get out of poverty.
I couldn’t agree more. That is why the CEP has to go.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Quoting from my own previous article on the CEP,
A school is not just a building, with rooms full of books and chairs. It is also an integral part of a community, especially in rural areas. Local government units must sustain communities where children stay in school. There must be water, electricity and food. The mere fact that a lot of schools in our country lack these most basic necessities raises the question of how responsive, practical and responsible CEP can be.
Education is key, but it is not the only one. It has to work together with other basic needs such as food, shelter, health and infrastructure. We can fill up brains as much as we can but at the end of the day, what still matters for most is how much they have filled up their bellies and whether they can live for the next day. We always start with that, even before we can talk about feeding our people’s hearts and souls.
I believe in our country, but not the Cyber Education Project. It is unwieldy, impractical and an idea whose time has not yet come. I believe that our taxes don’t belong to projects such as this since there are still more urgent needs such as poverty and political alienation to respond to. It has been that way for decades and only when we solve that can we jump into the next century. The CEP’s time will come eventually, just not now.
- Bakit dapat nating tutulan ang Cyber Education Project (CEP) ng DepEd at Malacañang? by Mr. Tonchi Tinio of theAlliance of Concerned Teachers