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SENATOR GRACE POE has said the educational system should be redirected toward digital inclusion if Filipino students are to be globally competitive and skilled in technology.

"Digital literacy should be at the forefront of Philippine education. We have to transform our system so that our students will have the skills that they need to excel in a technology-driven world," Poe said in a statement.

She pointed out that based on the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the government's budget for textbooks and instructional materials in 2015 was 3.461 billion pesos (Bt2.59 billion baht) or roughly 164 pesos per student.

Tablets, on the other hand, would cost around 2,000 pesos per student, at the minimum, an equivalent to an investment of at least 42 billion pesos for the estimated 21 million public school students by 2020.

Poe, a former teacher, said: "That is reasonable amount to pay for the vast benefits of digitisation, including equipping the youth with the skills necessary to elevate them into a breed of technology innovators.

"If there is one thing that I would put money in, it would be the development of the Filipino youth. It's an investment in the country's future."

During her proclamation as an independent presidential candidate in September last year, the senator stressed in her 20-point agenda the need for digitisation in the country's educational system.

"I believe that integrating new learning technologies will improve the learning process as a whole and will cost a lot less in the long run. We cannot expect to reap any benefits if we do not sow," she said.

In the Philippines, a US$1,000 (Bt35,000) investment in a device could translate into an increase of $49,000 in an individual's life-long earning potential, according to "Shared Prosperity: An ICT Manifesto for the Philippines for 2016 and Beyond", which was prepared by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Microsoft.

An investment in devices for the approximately 12 million Filipino children living in poverty would reap estimated lifetime benefits worth $59.3 billion, it further said.

"To ensure that all Filipinos have equal opportunity to participate in and benefit fully from the digital economy, we will need to re-orient the educational system to cultivate a new breed of creators, not just consumers, of technology," the ICT manifesto, released on November 25, said.

Poe, however, acknowledged that re-orientating the educational system would face many hurdles, noting that a majority of teachers, who are supposed to be instruments of digital inclusion, lack familiarity with technology and the concept of innovative teaching.

"The key is to focus on teachers, if we want to raise a new generation of innovators. The government has to be more aggressive in training our teachers and improving their working conditions to help them meet the goals of digital literacy in innovative ways," said the senator.

She said connectivity and Internet speed also posed a challenge.

While 38 million Filipinos are wired, making the Philippines a nation of tech-savvy citizens, Poe said the country's broadband services dangerously fall behind its Asean neighbours, with household download speed ranked slowest in the region.

A report by Akamai showed that at an average of 2.5 mbps, the Philippines placed 103rd among 190 countries in terms of Internet speed. 

SOURCE: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/

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