GILAS: Public schools on the information highway (Part 1)

Good news for Filipino public high schools!

According to the Department of Education, all public high schools in the country will have Internet access by 2012. This is thanks greatly to the efforts of the non-profit organization Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students or GILAS.

Thanks to the private sector led IT literacy program, about 4.4 million Filipino public high school students from 3,306 schools are now connected to the information superhighway, with 100% connectivity to be achieved by next year.


The GILAS consortium established with the goal of providing Internet connectivity for Philippine Public Schools. The success of its endeavors has shown the country an effective model for a Private and Public Partnership (PPP) that works.

The consortium comprises a number of successful companies and organizations from various industries and sectors. It’s members are: the Ayala companies (Ayala Corp., Ayala Foundation, and Globe Telecom); the Makati Business Club; American Chamber of Commerce; Bayan; Digitel; Bato-Balani Foundation; the largest TV network GMA-7; technology companies Apple, IBM, HP, Intel, Integrated Micro-electronics, Inc. and Microsoft; Narra Venture Capital, Mitsubishi Corp., Philstar, PBSP, , and SPI, and PLDT-Smart.

GILAS started providing public schools with online access as early as 2005. Using some government funds and solicitations from abroad, OFWs and other sponsors from various sectors, about half of the public high schools in the country enjoy Internet access today.

According to the GILAS website, there are 6,790 public high schools in the country. There are still about 3,528 that need to be worked on. With the program fully established, the Ayala co-chaired effort has now turned over the reigns of the program to the Department of Education.

Revolutionizing the Education Sector

At the turn over ceremony a few days ago, the Department of Education promised that it would continue and uphold the commendable work started by GILAS. For one thing, the Department committed to paying the monthly Internet connection fees needed to power the technology. After all, it won’t matter if the schools have the equipment and technology, if the government doesn’t pay the bill to maintain the monthly service.

According to DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro, “The real revolution in education which has long-term effects can only be done through IT (information technology)”. This means that it’s not enough to just construct more classrooms and bathrooms for the use of public schools.

This is certainly true and the declaration shows the DepEd’s awareness of the Herculean task ahead to overhaul the public education system. It is also in keeping with the Aquino administration’s focus on revitalizing and revamping the education system in the country.

To fully realize the project, the Government has allotted P1.8 billion from its budget. Also, over 13,000 teachers were trained to utilize the technology in classrooms and to assist students. Hopefully, an ample number of IT trained personnel will be present in schools to ensure that the technology is working properly.

Benefits of the Internet: Free, new and fast information

The Internet isn’t just about logging onto Facebook, getting on Twitter, talking to loved ones on Skype, uploading pictures, playing interactive games, surfing porn or downloading music.

Today, Filipinos go to various WiFi spots in malls and commercial centers to surf online, do their homework, chat with friends and post on their FB accounts. Tickets for one peso airline seat sales, concerts, movies and other shows can even be purchased online, not to mention a number of other goods and services, from designer bags to fast food delivery services. Many use their laptops and tablets while others use their 3G and 4G capable mobile phones. However, this is limited in the country to those who know how to use the technology and those who have the equipment to access it. In our country, that means less than 10 percent.

While it has long been seen as a luxury for the privileged, the developers of the Internet envisioned something much more noble in mind.

The Internet allows for communication and information dissemination in ways never before achieved. Going online means getting free information that is current and up to date that is accessed in an interactive manner. This means you can talk, email or chat with someone live on the other side of the world, without having to pay for hefty long distance fees or waiting a long time for the mail to arrive.

People find out about events in the world in real time, from the death of Steve Jobs, the capture of Khadafy, who won the Pacquiao fight even before the local telecast finished, the Supreme Court decisions, and even the upcoming paternity test results of Justin Bieber. Today, anyone can get online and Google something if they want to research something and they can get results quicker than getting through a McDonald’s drive through window.

Need for full access

Our public high school students also need to get on this bandwagon, not because it is popular or uso, but because it is their right to learn and have as much access to information as a student enrolled in a top private school. In fact, it would be ideal if even grade school students could get online as well. After all, it’s easier to teach kids nowadays about technology, especially since it has become so ingrained in our lives. It’s not enough that our kids and teens are the best texters in the world. We need to start teaching them to be more technologically savvy.

It’s about time our students get Internet access if we want to remain competitive with the rest of the world. The full integration of Internet use and education can provide many benefits. It literally will open new worlds to our students and take learning to a whole new level, which is in keeping with the digital age. As a byproduct of accessing all this technology, English spelling and reading skills will improve, since most of the information online is in English.

It’s a way of providing information to a greater number of students in a cost effective manner. It’s easier to connect schools online than to build more libraries and certainly cheaper than building entire classrooms from the ground up. The project does cost money, but it is money well spent. By providing our students with access to the Internet, they literally have at their fingertips information on just about anything in the world.

Continuation in Filipino students go online – efforts should not go to waste (Part 2).


Photo source: Nigel Goodman, Flickr. Some rights reserved.