Digital classrooms | Inquirer Opinion

Digital classrooms

/ 03:33 AM January 17, 2015

In “Wiring Students for Success,” Jimmy Sarakatsannis, an associate principal in McKinsey & Co.’s office in Washington, DC, writes: “Thanks to digital technology, we’re within sight of being able to personalize learning so that each student gets exactly what he or she needs, which is what good teachers have strived for since the invention of chalk and blackboards.”

Sarakatsannis also says: “All great teaching boils down to a 4-step, cyclical process. The first step is understanding what students need to learn. The second step involves sharing this information in a manner that students can take in. The third step is practice, giving students the chance to engage in content and master their new skills. The fourth is feedback, so that mistakes can be corrected and students can progress. This is what great teachers strive for—and what emerging technologies can help them attain. If I were teaching in a tech-enabled classroom today, I would see easy-to-interpret data that identified each of my students’ needs every day. I would share that data, allowing each student to see exactly how much of the curriculum he or she had mastered and what challenges still remained. The same software that produces these reports would suggest materials and activities tailored to individual needs.”

Many Philippine classrooms, whether elementary, high school or college, are far from being THAT digital. More than likely, a typical school will not have enough computers for all its students. Neither will it have Internet connectivity with enough bandwidth to run any but the most basic web-based applications.

In fact, the resource gaps have been so wide that as early as 1998, Congress enacted the Adopt-A-School Law (Republic Act No. 8525) to spur more widespread private-sector involvement in improving the overall learning environment in Philippine public schools. Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Marcelo Fernan (since deceased) and Rep. Anne Marie Periquet in the House, RA No. 8525 provides for an additional tax deduction on the gross income equivalent to 50 percent of the value of the donation for individuals or companies donating directly to public schools on top of the 100-percent tax deduction accorded by law to these private entities. (RA 8525’s tax incentive provisions remained largely unutilized until 2003, when the Bureau of Internal Revenue promulgated the implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) for the law.)


Information-technology-related donations to public high schools from the private sector still flowed through largely due to initiatives like

Gilas (Gearing for Internet Literacy and Access to Students), which was organized by a consortium composed of Ayala Foundation, Ayala Corp.,

Ayala-led Globe Telecom, Integrated Micro-electronics Inc., American Chamber of Commerce, Apple, Bato-Balani Foundation, Bayan, Digitel, GMA-7, HP, IBM, Intel, Makati Business Club, Microsoft, Mitsubishi Corp., Narra Venture Capital, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Philippine Daily Inquirer, PLDT-Smart, and SPI.

The Gilas project and other private-sector-led initiatives—like the 5775 Movement, Philippine Business for Education’s 1000 Teachers Program, Teach for The Philippines and the Eggie Apostol Foundation’s Education Revolution—underscore the private sector’s firm grasp of its pivotal role in bringing the quality of our trifocalized education system up to global competency standards.


In fact, in 2013 the Department of Education issued new IRRs for RA 8525 (Department Order No. 2 series 2013) that expand the definition of “public school” to explicitly include all public or government learning institutions that are administered, supervised and monitored by the DepEd, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The new IRRs clear the way for even greater private-sector involvement and assistance to public schools in cash or in kind, “such as but not limited to infrastructure, real estate property, physical facilities, training and skills development, learning support, reading materials, computer and science laboratories, health and nutrition packages, and assistive learning devices for students with special needs.”


The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap) has for years been trying to tap a very large source of used but fully functional computer hardware for donation to public schools and universities. The Ibpap’s member-companies go through a periodic “Tech Refresh” process to make sure that their IT equipment are up to snuff, so to speak, and to replace the ones that are not. At any given time, that adds up to a few thousand pieces of computer hardware (CPUs, keyboards, monitors, routers and hubs and the occasional computer furniture), all used but perfectly usable.

Unfortunately, the used IT equipment are located in the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) areas. Donating these to schools outside the Peza zones is not impossible, but tax rules such as the provision on donor taxes make the activity easier said than done. For many IT-BPM companies, it thus becomes more cost-effective to just destroy the used equipment so it can’t be resold by unscrupulous entities. This is truly lamentable, at a time when the Unesco’s Senior Experts Group recently identified an education development trend where “not only is private industry investing more in-company to enhance the skill profiles of their workers, but businesses are also investing more beyond their immediate needs as part of their corporate social responsibility.”

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Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at Ibpap.

TAGS: Butch Hernandez, column, education, learning

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