OLONGAPO, January 30, 2006
 (BULLETIN) By MELVIN G. CALIMAG - Olongapo City National High School (OCNHS), the only secondary institution in the country that has a special ICT curriculum, took a step farther in strengthening the ICT skills of its students when it formally joined last January 25 the list of beneficiaries of the Smart Schools Program.

The initiative, sponsored by Smart Communications, provides selected public high schools with a computer laboratory connected to the Internet. The PCs are donated by Smart but the Internet connection is provided for free for only a year.

OCNHS, situated in the heart of Olongapo City, has been cited for formulating an ICT curriculum that is unique throughout the country. Aside from the basic education class and special science class, the school has an ICT class that enjoys extra computer subjects not taught in the other classes.

The special program was first implemented in 2002 with an initial 40 computer units used by 65 students divided into two classes. It was then named Special Program for Computer Education but was later changed to ICT Curriculum in 2004.

The first ICT batch is now on its fourth year and is set to graduate this year, while the first year batch has grown to three classes with 40 students comprising each class, said school’s principal, Helen Aggabao.

Aggabao said she picked up the idea of creating an ICT class after undergoing training in Singapore where she was exposed to students being given extensive training in ICT-related subjects.

"When I proposed this, the regional office of DepEd (Department of Education) did not object. They just told us that as long as we don’t lessen the basic education subjects, we’re free to add special subjects for special classes," she said.

Under the program, first year ICT class are given with the additional subject on how to use productivity applications such as MS Office. On their second year, they are taught basic Web developments tools. Upon reaching third year, they are given lessons on programming such as Visual Basic. Finally, on their last year, they are taught basic networking and PC assembly.

But Aggabao said the facilities that the ICT students had to use were very limited. "The PCs would conk out and we don’t have money to replace them. The students also have to share the cable connection we had to the Internet."

The school’s inclusion in the Smart Schools Program was indeed a "blessing," Aggabao said. Now¸ the school is poised to reach greater heights with its Internet connection through Smart WiFi, the carrier’s wireless broadband service.

OCNHS joins 32 other schools nationwide that are now part of the Smart Schools Program. These include schools from as far north in Basco, Batanes (Basco National High School), and down south in Bonggao, Tawi-Tawi (Tawi-Tawi School of Arts and Trade.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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