EDITORIAL — Distracted by gadgets

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL � Distracted by gadgets

After the pandemic lockdowns, the government once again subjected 15-year-old students to the Program for International Student Assessment. The country first joined the PISA in 2018, with disheartening results. The second assessment, in 2022, showed a new batch of 15-year-olds sustaining the dismal performance in mathematics, science and reading comprehension compared with peers in other countries. Education officials stressed that the results of the 2022 PISA were not unexpected, considering that the assessment was undertaken after two years of COVID lockdowns.

Outside the disappointing performance of Filipino learners, the 2022 PISA had an interesting sidelight: eight in 10 learners reported being distracted in school by cell phone use both by themselves and their classmates. The PISA results also showed that the distraction caused by smartphone use was correlated to a decrease of 9.3 points in learners’ performance in math, 12.2 points in science and 15.04 points in reading comprehension.

With these findings in mind, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian filed on June 11 a bill proposing a ban on the use of mobile phones and other electronic gadgets within school premises during class hours. The proposed Electronic Gadget-Free Schools Act provides exemptions if the gadgets are needed for learning-related activities, personal health reasons, emergencies, and during field trips outside school premises.

Those endorsing the proposed ban have also pointed out that cell phone use has aggravated bullying in schools. Obviously, addressing this problem will require more than a ban on electronic gadgets in schools, but at least the distraction from stressful digital messages and social media posts can be minimized during formal learning hours.

The ban is just one of the measures needed to improve the quality of education, whose continued deterioration is reflected in the PISA results. Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte has expressed support for the proposed ban. The COVID lockdowns made electronic gadgets indispensable for remote learning. Now it’s time to wean students from their gadgets during class hours.

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