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October 7, 2007

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Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Statement on the Cyber Education Project

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) - Metro Baguio strongly calls for the total scrapping of the Cyber Education Project (CEP) of the Department of Education (DepEd), a loan project attached to the highly controversial National Broadband Network.

As we have projected, the Malacanang suspension of the two projects in response to allegations of irregularity and high-level corruption surrounding these contracts is not final. In the case of the CEP, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Favila has clearly said last October 3 that the project is not being scrapped.

The CEP supposedly aims to set up television production and satellite broadcasting facilities in the Deped's central office and satellite-based facilities in 26,618 schools throughout the country. Each school will be provided with one multimedia classroom with four TVs, two PCs, and one printer. Fifteen to twenty minute-long classes taught by "excellent master teachers" in all subjects for all year levels will be broadcast live via satellite to all the schools on the system's twelve television channels. The project will be rolled out over a three-year period and funded by a loan from China worth US$ 465.5 million or Php 26.48 billion. This loan amounts to 86 percent of the project, or Php22.77 billion. The remaining Php3.71 billion, or 14 percent, will be financed by the Philippine government. We hear that PLDT's Mabuhay Satellite Corporation has been aggressively lobbying Deped officials to take on the project.

Outright, we say the project is deceptive because even while its name suggests "computer-based learning via the internet", it is nothing more than television-based instruction delivered via satellite. Amidst serious doubts about its cost-effectiveness, we say it is an expensive white elephant that will burden our people for the next years to come.

More importantly, ACT - MB reiterates the national alliance opposition to the CEP with the following reasons:

1. It fails to address the roots of the problems in basic education. The increasing poverty and continuing underspending for education has resulted in huge shortages in teachers, classrooms, textbooks and other resources, eroded the economic and professional status of teachers, and deprived them of high-quality training. These problems in education are not addressed by the CEP.

2. Expensive technology is used inappropriately. The CEP's TV-based instruction technology delivered via satellite is touted as a "one-size fits all" solution to be imposed on all schools regardless of the actual needs and conditions of each throughout the archipelago. This does not bolster the delivery of quality. Moreover, the same educational content can be delivered through much cheaper "playback technology" (i.e., DVD players and VCDs/DVDs) rather than through live satellite broadcasts.

3. It's a gross misallocation of limited funds. A mind-boggling amount of money-Php 26.48 billion will be spent on a single project, the effectiveness of which has not yet even been proven. No studies have even been made at all regarding the effectiveness of TV-based instruction in basic education. On the other hand, investment in more teachers and classrooms to reduce class sizes, high-quality teacher training programs, and upgrading the economic status of teachers are proven and time-tested ways of improving education quality. This is where the money should be spent.

4. It lacks transparency. The legality of the contract on the project must be questioned. The Cyber Education Project was reportedly signed by Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila in behalf of the Department of Education and Dr. Kang Ke Jung of Tsinghua Tongfang Nuctech Co. as part of the ICT Cooperation between China and the Philippines in Boao, China on April 21, 2007 and witnessed by Pres. Gloria Arroyo. This included the signing of the controversial National Broadband Network contract, which is worth US$ 330 million. The Deped has not provided the public with details regarding the contract. It should therefore be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny by the public and by the relevant agencies of government.

As the Senate hearings complicate to unravel the truth behind the NBN, we call on all sectors concerned in education- the teachers, the students and the parents, to unite with the rest of the Filipino people and be vigilant on this big issue rocking our country today.

Let us reiterate our call for the total scrapping of both the National Broadband Network and the Cyber Education Project and let us make those accountable for these questionable projects pay the price.

Beyond this, we call greater attention to the fact that this is not the first time Malacanang is being dragged in big-scale corruption issues. The Pidal issue, the Macapagal Super Highway question and the fertilizer scam have not yet been clarified to us by the GMA administration.

We have not allowed the Estrada Regime to go unpunished with his plunder of the Filipino people's money. Let us remind the GMA administration and all administrations that will follow that they will suffer the same fate if they do the same.#

For reference:
Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding
ACT-Metro Baguio Coordinator
7 October, 2007

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