Press Release
August 5, 2020

Pia backs creation of gov't body to oversee open & distance learning systems in PH

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is supporting a proposal to create a government body that will oversee the implementation of online learning and distance education programs for the tertiary level throughout the country.

Cayetano, who sponsored the passage of the Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650) of 2014, says the proposed creation of the Tertiary Online Learning and Distance Education Office under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will help address students' changing needs during the New Normal and beyond.

During Wednesday's (August 5) Senate Committee on Higher, Technical, and Vocational Education hearing, Cayetano expressed her support for Senate Bill No. 1459 or the "Tertiary Online Learning and Distance Education Act of 2020," filed by Senator Francis Tolentino.

The measure tasks the proposed body under CHED to institutionalize online and distance learning systems in all colleges and universities through the development of policy guidelines and quality standards for implementation.

"I very much welcome the efforts and any initiative to strengthen [our law on distance education] further, including creating an office that will really be able to maximize the intention of our [existing law]" Cayetano stated in her opening statement at the hearing.

Principally authored by the late Senator Edgardo Angara, the Open Distance Learning Act institutionalized open distance and flexible learning methods in all levels of tertiary education in the country. Cayetano defended the measure in plenary as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture during the 16th Congress.

The senator shared that her inspiration in sponsoring the bill were Filipina migrant workers in Hong Kong, who took online classes during their free time. The courses were offered by a group of nuns in Hong Kong whose vocation, among others, was distance education.

"A lot of Filipina OFWs would take courses from them. And they tied up with colleges and universities in the Philippines that provided the modules. I was so impressed with the determination of these Filipina OFWs, and with the ministry of these nuns... I knew we had a bill pending [in the Senate]. That's why I heard it [in my committee] and it is now a law," Cayetano recalled.

"At the time, we did not foresee a pandemic. In fact, the use of the internet was just starting... But the point is, we already saw this need as a whole, and I'm very happy that this is in place and is actually in use. It was meant to institutionalize a practice that already existed," she further stressed.

Meanwhile, Cayetano also expressed commitment to work with the Committee leadership in addressing the need to improve digital connectivity in the country, in order to ensure the proper implementation of distance and online learning in our schools.

"I support the concern that was raised about connectivity for the private sector. Let's see what we can do about that immediately. Because we recognize that they are integral partners in the delivery of higher education to our youth. So that really must be something that we should work on," she stressed.

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