Bohol teachers hope gov’t info portals can revive interest in libraries

CREATIVE LEARNING. A student in a Bohol public  school at a STARBOOKS site.  Photos from DOST Starbooks Facebook page

CREATIVE LEARNING. A student in a Bohol public school at a STARBOOKS site.

Photos from DOST Starbooks Facebook page

BOHOL, Philippines – Some public school teachers have expressed alarm over the dwindling interest of students in using school libraries, as most of them have become heavily dependent on their internet-connected gadgets for research work.

Ranila Ramos, a social studies and English teacher of San Jose National High School in Talibon town, told Rappler in an interview that of the 3,000-plus students enrolled in their school, only about 10% of them use the school library. 

"Unlike in the past, most of our students these days rely on Google search through their phones. For as long as they have internet data, they no longer bother to go to the library, if you give them assignments," said Ramos, who has been a teacher for more than two decades. 

Her school is one of the 59 benificiaries of the Department of Science and Technology's Science and Technology Academic Research-Based Openly Operated Kiosk Stations (Starbooks), a set of learning tools turned over to selected schools in Bohol on Wednesday, November 15, in Tagbilaran City.

Starbooks, considered the Philippines' first digital library in a kiosk, allows students free access to thousands of digitized science and technology resources, including mathematics and livelihood-related materials in text, photo, audio, and video formats without the need of internet connection.

A standalone "library in a box," the Starbooks program is DOST's flagship project on establishing information portals in key areas in the Philippines.

Ramos hopes that with Starbooks, which will be set up inside the school library, students will learn to appreciate the value of a school library.

Less interest in books, library visits

Maria Eden Racho, a teacher at Tagbilaran City-based Cogon Elementary School, another Starbooks recipient, told Rappler that pupils have little interest in reading books and in visiting the school library. 

"They prefer to play games on their phones during their vacant time. I don't see them reading books," Racho said.

She said that when she was a student, she would always look forward to the new books given to them on school opening. But now, she is not sensing the same level of enthusiasm among her pupils. 

Josephine Moreno, a co-teacher of Racho, said she was alarmed when she saw the school library nearly empty.

"Internet games and other online forms of entertainment are taking away the students' love for books and library," Moreno said.

Meanwhile, Department of Education (DepEd's) Bohol Division Superintendent Dr Wilfreda Bongalos said at the turnover of Starbooks program that the tool provided by the DOST is a huge upgrade for remote public school libraries which have no access to the Internet. 

In Bohol, many of the more a thousand DepEd-run elementary and secondary schools are located in places where internet connection is limited, or geographically impossible.

With a total of 59 Starbooks set up in Bohol, 30 of which were already installed in 2015, Bongalos hopes that there would be more funds in the future for the installation of Starbooks in all public schools here.

"Starbooks is the government's gift for the millennials," said DOST Science and Technology Information Institute Executive Director Richard Burgos, a keynote speaker at the launch of Starbooks in Bohol. 

Burgos said students must realize that not everything they find using Google search is true. He also lamented that only 1% of all public school libraries in the country are functional, based on DepEd data. 

He said Starbooks will be continually updated as new materials become available. 

According to the DOST, Starbooks has been lauded locally and internationally. It was awarded the Presidential Citation for Innovative International Library Projects  by the American Library Association  in San Francisco, California, on June 29, 2015.

As of April 2017, Starbooks has been installed in 1,358 sites all over the country. – Rappler.com