Bringing education to the masses




The Manila Times


NO student shall be left behind. Following this principle, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), under the guidance of its president, Dr. Manuel Muhi, is introducing an outdoor yet quality delivery of education brought to the very doorsteps of the students. A bus has been converted into a classroom with state-of-the-art facilities such as retractable tables, stackable chairs and solar-powered electricity, so that economically marginalized students will be treated to a stress-free learning environment. This is PUP’s response to the growing number of out-of-school youths in the country. Based on the 2017 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there are an estimated 3.6 million out-of-school youths (OSYs), of which 83 percent are ages 16 to 24, the prime age for college. According to the PSA, nationwide, about one-half of OSYs belong to families whose incomes fall at the bottom 30 percent based on their per capita income. Another takeaway from the survey is that one of the most common reasons why OSYs do not attend school is the high cost of education, something the current administration has tried to address through the Free Education Act. In addition, other expenses such as transportation, food and books also contribute to why students do not continue with schooling. As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps through the world, the Philippines finds itself caught up in the damaging effects of the virus, disrupting lives, the economy and the sense of normalcy of the Filipino people. Unemployment has risen to an all-time high of 17.7 percent as of June 2020, which has made students even more vulnerable. The combination of the presence of the virus and the lack of resources to start or continue schooling will ensure that those who could not go to school during normal times will not be able to study even more because of the current environment. It is against this background that the PUP launched the EOW initiative to bring education directly to the growing number of OSY. Bringing education right to the doorsteps of the students after all is the embodiment of the PUP battle cry, “No one will be left behind when it comes to education.” The PUP Pamantasang Bayan-Education on Wheels (EOW) program has several objectives: a) to provide the marginalized sector direct access to PUP education; b) to reduce the number of out-of-school youths in the Philippines; c) To further promote extension as a tool to improve society as a whole by developing quality extension projects and interventions in collaboration with other institutions, in hopes of developing best practices among the various sectors of society; and d) to use education as a tool to uplift the impoverished and change lives for the better. To carry out the project, the PUP-Open University System will be handling the design of the curriculum and scheduling of classes. Maximizing blended learning, the students will be attending asynchronous and synchronous sessions. During asynchronous sessions, the instructor will be providing modules for the students to read at home, as well as homework which will test their understanding of particular topics. In synchronous sessions, the instructor will visit the community using the EOW bus, provide them with other information education materials and facilitate the discussion inside the bus. Students will meet the instructor synchronously two times a week, while the rest of the week will be allotted to asynchronous sessions. With this, it is expected that the students will be more productive and engaged with discussions and learning, given that they will have ample mental health breaks and time to adjust their schedule. In partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), each year level will also be accredited by their organization to provide wider opportunities for the out-of-school youths. The curriculum is ladderized, meaning every year level has a technical skill that is aligned with Tesda so that the student can take national certification, thus after each year-level, they can be employed at different vocationally and technically heavy industries. Instructors for various subjects will be riding the EOW bus, together with the information and education communication materials. In this mode, the students will be saved from the additional financial burden of spending on transportation. To give everyone an idea how the EOW works, PUP has converted a bus, donated by Century Peak Corp., into a classroom and installed a whiteboard and provided laptops and Wi-Fi that the students can use. The EOW bus-classroom can accommodate up to 40 to 50 students, equipped with collapsible tables, chairs and whiteboards. Solar panels were also installed to provide energy for air-conditioning and other electricity needs. As an added bonus, the EOW bus will also be bringing food meals for the students to ensure that their well-being will be taken care of while attending classes. Since the courses to be offered are not laboratory extensive, all synchronous sessions will be held inside the EOW bus to also guarantee the safety and security of the students while a class is in session. Currently, there 60-plus students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Office Administration, with some of the enrollees residing in Smokey Mountain, some referred to by the Sandiwaan Learning Center and some categorized as working students. Interestingly, PUP only has a budget of P2 billion annually for 80,000 students compared to other state universities which get a bigger chunk of the budget for a far less number of students. But even then, Dr. Muhi, the brains behind the EOW, plans to roll out a few more buses in his quest to bring quality education right to the doorsteps of the less privileged. Well, as the saying goes, if Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, let the mountain come to Mohammad.