Tuesday, November 11, 2008

eSkwela at Loyola Heights

Another eSkwela center has been opened recently in Barangay Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Read article below. Taken from Inquirer.net

CICT opens new e-learning center in QC
By Anna Valmero
First Posted 10:35:00 11/11/2008

QUEZON CITY, Philippines -- The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) has opened its seventh e-learning center in Loyola Heights under its eSkwela project.

The CICT through its Human Capital Development Group (CICT HCDG) launched in 2005 eSkwela to provide disadvantaged youth with educational opportunities to help reduce the digital divide and enhance their capacity to be successful participants in a global and knowledge-based economy.

The Loyola Heights center received an enrollment of 55 learners, mostly aged below 20.

The eSkwela project hopes to provide opportunity for Filipino out-of-school youths and adults (OSYAs) to go back to school.

According to a 2004 study by the Department of Education, there are 15 million Filipino out-of-school youths and adults. A major cause of this is poverty. Instead of going to school, children from poor families start working at an early age to help provide for their families.

According to the Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), public education in the country is free but the poor find it difficult to cover transportation, food and allowances cost of going to school.

Angelina Malabanan, mobile teacher at the new center, said the site will offer the opportunity of alternative education for more OSYAs in the area.

Malabanan was fielded by DepEd’a Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) as a mobile teacher.

“Under eSkwela, we call the enrollees as learners compared to students in formal schooling; we teach them based on their own pace,” said Malabanan. “We employ interactive topic modules to teach them the five learning strands geared to help them develop basic skills in preparation for employment, vocational courses or tertiary education.”

The five learning strands include communications, critical thinking and problem solving, productivity and sustainability of natural resources, development of self and sense of community, and expanding one’s world vision. The modules include audio and text materials in English but for discussions, learners can use Filipino or English.

Since eSkwela is a play on Filipino terms “iskwela” meaning school and “kwela” meaning fun, the five strands uses BALS-based interactive modules which learners can access via the Internet.

Malabanan said this strategy helps students develop computer literacy while studying the modules.

Malabanan added that they also encourage peer-teaching, in which fast learners help slow learners in some topics. “This gives learning a community experience,” she said.

Amy Mosura, eSkwela project staff, said they are continuously expanding as more communities learn about and adopt the program.

“Communities contact us to seek guidance on how to set up an eSkwela center. Since this is a “bayanihan” effort, the local community helps provide a room or a center to house the learners and the computers to be used. Then, mobile teachers are fielded and teach at the center.”

The community in which the eSkwela center is located manages the center.

Mosura said the local community, which includes LGUs and local DepEd or civic organizations, are oriented about their responsibilities to maintain the sustainability of the project and become stewards of development for their learners.

Mosura added that they are gaining enrollees as more learn about the benefits of the eSkwela program: ICT-based learning and flexible schedules.

She added the program also eliminates awkwardness for adults to learn in a formal school environment.

She cited as example a 40-year-old who gave up schooling in Grade 6 due to being bullied for her physical disability. She enrolled at the eSkwela center in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, took the accreditation exam and ranked eighth among examiners in the area.

“The current education system is a one-size fits all program but for some reasons, it cannot work for some people -- like the young who start work at an early age and those above 30-years-old who feel awkward to go back to secondary school. We cannot keep them marginalized because they are assets of the country towards development.”

But there is a long road ahead for eSkwela.

According to Amy Mosura of the eSkwela project, challenges for operations and further expansion include lack of mobile teachers and funding. Budget for eSkwela comes from CICT and grants from foundations, such as the APEC Educational Foundation, mainly provide budget for eSkwela’s operations.

In the Loyola Heights center, lack of desktop computers is a big challenge since all 55 learners share the five computers available, said Malabanan. To address this, learners have limited hours of computer use and were divided in morning and afternoon shifts.

The new center is the second e-learning site in Diliman, the first is located at Roces Avenue. Provincial centers are located at Bulacan, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Ormoc and Zamboanga.

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