While the majority of Filipino students make do with paper textbooks, some schools are now toying with the idea of taking the virtual leap towards digital education.
In June 2011, the Laguna local government launched a pilot project involving the use of tablet PCs to replace the paper textbooks used by students in schools around the province. One thousand e-Rizal Tablets, pre-loaded with digital versions of their textbooks, were distributed to the freshmen students of Laguna Science National High School, University of the Philippines Rural High School, and one public high school from each of the province’s four congressional districts.
Some Philippine publishers see this as the future of the book and, ultimately, the future of Philippine education.
Leading publishers and book advocates from around the country were given a preview of this future during the Second Future of the Book (FOTB) Digital Publishing Conference, organized by Vibal Foundation, National Book Development Board (NBDB), and the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP). Held recently at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni, the event witnessed the gathering of some of the world’s most innovative publishers who presented trends in digital publishing to Filipino publishers.
Reinventing the book
During the 2nd FOTB, discourse on the e-book and digital publishing was raised a notch higher—from possible shifts in business approach within the publishing industry, to establishing e-books as the new standard in Philippine education. BDAP president Lirio Sandoval in his welcome remarks noted that e-book technology is simply a “reinvention” of the book and publishers must see this as a prospect given the rapid advancements in technology.
It was this paradigm shift that prompted Jun Lozada to lead the tablet education project of De La Salle Greenhills. Lozada was one of the invited speakers for the track on digital education.
“With the changing trends in education, the K-12, budget cuts and an increasing demand, we need an adaptive mindset. We need to introduce the digital word as the new medium—one that drives learning system design and not the other way around,” Lozada said.
The provincial government of Laguna was likewise attracted to the “reinvention” of the printed book into digital formats using mobile computing technology. Laguna Provincial Board Member Neil Nocon discussed how the e-Rizal tablet drew the attention of students and teachers of Laguna public schools. Though the tablets were used on a pilot initiative, Nocon looks forward to the e-book as a more efficient and practical alternative to printed textbooks.
This does not mean though that printed books will be banished to antiquity. Winnie Hung, regional coordinator of Hewlett-Packard (HP) Southeast Asia, presented statistics showing that the demand for printed materials is still steady, but the conventional mode of printing naturally produces supplies that outweigh the actual demand of readers. She promoted new trends in digital printing that are more cost-efficient and based on actual consumer demand.
But what of the present?
Publishers must brace for the future of publishing but must also consider the objective conditions of the present to effectively address the needs of the Filipino consumer.
Currently, the focal area in Philippine publishing is the public education sector, which for decades suffered from financial constraints.
According to Nocon, “The Philippine government provides only half of the required six percent out of the country’s gross national product for education. Education must be prioritized in our budget in order for us to move forward to digital education. Budget is still essential for education.”
More studies must be conducted to determine if the use of e-textbooks is feasible among public school students. The procurement of new equipment, such as tablets, e-readers, software, and applications, must also be transparent and publicly bidded out.
Outside the educational spectrum, e-book technology can provide independent authors a platform to more easily sell and distribute their works. It can also be used to promote classic Filipino literature, in essence preserving history in the futuristic realm of cyberspace. Observers note that digital technology should not be reserved for only a privileged few; instead, it must open the gates toward free and open sharing of information.
Open knowledge, unlimited learning, and education that is accessible to all – this must be the future of the book, and the future of Philippine publishing. ###