THE Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to blur the line between the digital and the physical spheres as daily interactions with mobile or computer screens develop beyond their current static forms.
World Economic Forum chairperson Klaus Schwab believes this latest industrial revolution will be “fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”
Is the Philippines ready for e-classrooms and virtual interaction between students and teachers? Do the recent laws on universal access to quality education and open distance learning prepare students to become part of the modern work force?
Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) chairperson Prospero E. De Vera III believes that meeting the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be difficult if internet connectivity does not improve.
“Ang problema natin (Our problem with) the Fourth Industrial (Revolution) in the Philippines is the internet… So much fear, so much opportunity. But if our internet does not become faster, we cannot harness the opportunity of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Mr. De Vera said in an interview with BusinessWorld.
The latest Social Weather Stations survey conducted in March noted that internet use among university graduates was 79%, up from 77% three months earlier.
Despite the high percentage of internet usage among Filipinos, especially college students, Speedtest Global Index reported that the country’s fixed line internet average speed of 19.51 Mbps was much slower than the global average of 57.91 Mbps. This puts the Philippines at 101st among 179 countries.
“Ang solution diyan wala sa CHEd, ang solusyon diyan nasa telcos,” said Mr. De Vera.
Technology expert Art Samaniego, Jr. said that a 5G connection will go a long way to helping modernize classrooms during the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Kapag na-activate na ’yung 5G network natin, ang dali dali nang i-combine ang technology at, tulungan ’yung educational system. Hindi na kailangan ng estudyante pumunta sa eskwelahan,” (When 5G is activated, it will be easy to fold technology into the educational system. Students may not even need to go to school), Mr. Samaniego said in a chance interview.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it awarded the Mislatel consortium its operating frequencies and permit to operate, with the incoming third player in the telecommunications industry expected to begin operations by 2020.
“Meron kaming vision na by the end of 2020, mararamdaman na ’yung fast internet natin. Nandiyan na ’yung third telco, at meron na kaming pinapairal na national-global plan,” said DICT Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. in a phone interview. (Our vision is that by the end of 2020, we will start experiencing fast internet connections. The third telco will be there and we are also implementing a national-global plan.)
Mr. Rio also noted that Republic Act No 10929 or the Free Internet Access Program will benefit state educational institutions.
“We have a law that will provide the necessary funds for this and this is the “Free Wifi Zone”. So gagawin naming access points lahat ng mga schools and ’yung mga state-owned universities and colleges (We will make the schools and state-owned universities and colleges access points),” said Mr. Rio.
Under the law, the government will invest P1.16 billion this year to put up close to 11,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots around the country.
OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING ACT
Former President Benigno S.C. Aquino III signed five years ago Republic Act 10650, the Open Distance Learning Act, which seeks to provide government support for distance learning programs and to democratize access to tertiary education.
Under the new law, the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) is required to provide expertise to CHEd in the development of open learning and distance education and in the proper use of information and communications technologies in support of quality higher education.
However, Mr. De Vera noted that even UPOU itself cannot fully meet its mandate to provide open distance learning programs at the undergraduate level as it only offers two undergraduate programs: BA in Multimedia Studies and Bachelor of Education Studies, as compared to the 16 master’s and doctorate programs.
“UP is supposed to be the apex university that is supposed to develop it by giving technical advice to CHEd….Ang nangyari (What happened is) they went to the graduate program, not the undergrad…. The most benefiting from it are OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers), nakakakuha sila ng (they obtain diploma) for their masters and PhD, but they only have two undergraduate programs,” said Mr. De Vera.
The CHEd chairperson is calling on UPOU to be “aggressive” in pushing for open distance learning programs especially in the undergraduate program in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“I’ve been telling UP Open U, you have to take a leadership role in creating an aggressive undergraduate programs using open distance learning, that is how we can harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Improve connectivity and use technology to do it. Maraming (There are many) universities ang may (that have) distance learning pero di mo alam ’yung quality kasi wala tayong (but you are not sure about the quality because we don’t have a) national framework,” he said.
HOW TO THRIVE IN THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
With the latest industrial revolution, robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, and machines will dominate most of our everyday work functions. Some jobs might become obsolete or grow, or new kinds of jobs will emerge.
“Ang challenge kasi ng Fourth Industrial Revolution is very simple: people are afraid of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Because it will disrupt existing manpower requirements, there will be jobs that will be redundant… the problem is that nobody can predict what new jobs will be created,” said Mr. De Vera.
He added, “The industry and the academe must work together because they must realize that their survival is dependent on how they can work together, to predict the new manpower demands, and draft the necessary curriculum to produce it. Kung ano man natututunan ng mga estudyante sa universities (Whatever the students learn in the universities), that will be redundant 10 years from now.”
Mr. De Vera said CHEd reguarly consults with the academe and industry to help keep graduates competitive.
“Ang kailangan ng (what is needed for the) Fourth Industrial Revolution is soft skills, which are essential skills, (like) problem solving, critical thinking, ayan ang kailangan ng tao (that’s what people need),” he said.
The World Economic Forum reported that the skills needed in the workplace in the future are complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, emotional intelligence, coordinating with others, judgment and decision making, service orientation, negotiation, and cognitive flexibility.
CHEd believes that these skills can be learned in the general education courses.
“Unfortunately, those essential skills cannot be learned in your internship…ang kailangan mong palakasin ay ’yung (what you need to strengthen is the) general education program. There must be a shift to look again at general education to develop graduates who are holistic in orientation, who understand globalization,” said Mr. De Vera.
Mr. Samaniego believes that exposing students and teachers to modern technologies will be a big help for their future careers.
“We need to educate the educators,” he said. “Dapat open sila sa (They should be open to) new forms of technology like social media. Marami pa ring schools ang nagba-ban sa social media. (Social media is still banned at many schools) Dapat open ‘to, kasi ito ’yung magiging workflow ng mga bata in the future (This should be open to everyone, because this will be the workflow of the students in the future).”
He said that integrating ideas on technology in other subjects will also help students.
“Kailangan natin i-integrate ang technology sa lahat ng subjects kung saan pwede, kasi lahat sakop na ng technology (We need to integrate technology in as many subjects as possible, because technology covers everything now). For example, Home Economics, may mga technology ka nang ginagamit sa mga home na ngayon eh (you are now using technology at home). Lahat connected na (Everything is now connected). Lalo kapag dumating ang 5G, lahat ng gamit mo sa home, connected na sa internet (Especially if 5G comes, everything you use at home will be connected to the internet),” said Mr. Samaniego.
He added, “Ang una mong applicant na tatanggapin ay ’yung technology literate (The first to be hired are those who are technology-literate). So mas may chance makakuha ng trabaho kapag tech-literate ka (So there is a more chance to be hired if you are tech-literate) , kapag na-blur na ’yung (when the line is blurred) between digital and physical.”
DICT noted that interactive classrooms will be more convenient and help in decongesting roads in Metro Manila.
“By connectivity, this instructor can teach many classrooms. Kaya dapat may (There should be) interactive na system, teleconferencing. If we have that, the quality of instruction will be much better. The instruction can be based in Manila and students can ask questions in real time…this can solve congestion in Manila,” said Mr. Rio.
However, Mr. Samaniego pointed out that students should also be instructed on privacy and security issues.
“Kapag nilagay mo ’yung bata sa technology (If you expose a child in technology), delikado siya dahil maraming danger ang technology (he is vulnerable because there are lots of dangers) — hacking, identity fraud. More than 90% of identity crime ay dahil sa (is due to) oversharing on the internet and social media. Kaya dapat habang wala pa tayong internet penetration na buo, dapat i-educate na natin mga bata tungkol sa privacy and security (That’s why we need to educate students on privacy and security even before we have full internet penetration,” he said.