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Filipinos hold education in high regard and strive to provide educational opportunities for their children. In many areas in the Philippines, this is reflected in the high percentage of children enrolled in elementary and secondary school. However, with completion rates at about 68% for the elementary level and 45% for the secondary level, a substantial number of children are unlikely to complete their education.

These percentages are typical of many public schools all over the country. Does this mean that majority of our public school students are intellectually challenged? Of course not. There are often a number of factors that work against students acquiring a good education: poor health, lack of school facilities, lack of an adequate supply of books and other quality learning materials.

Save the Children, a development and humanitarian response organization, recognizes that in order to concentrate in their classes, children need to be healthy and need to have school facilities that are conducive to learning. The organization assists public schools that are clearly in need of support - high dropout rates, low attendance rates, high repetition rates and other indicators of weak performance.

The ability of students to cope with the demands of school depends to a significant degree on their health status. An underfed student is already at a disadvantage. Lacking the proper nutrition, his body cannot function properly and his brain cannot learn effectively. Unhealthy students are often sick and thus absent; this adds to the already hampered learning process.

The state of a school's facilities also affect the children's learning capability, particularly the water supply system, classroom ventilation, and classroom lighting. These also need to be in good status for optimum learning conditions.

Save the Children uses field surveys to get a clear picture of the children's health and the status of the school facilities. The information on the status of the school facilities, taken in consideration with the general health status of the children, enable the school health and nutrition task force and Save the Children to more effectively plan interventions. Children can then be expected to be more prepared in meeting the challenges of schoolwork, thus increasing the chances of them completing their education.

Information that will lead to the development of new programs designed to improve performance is necessary but often not easily available. The ability to collect this information in a timely manner helps Save the Children, school administrators, parents and the community to identify what they can best contribute in improving the performance of their schools, and in the long term ensure that more children complete their education.
Save the Children's Philippine Field Office is now making use of new technology to help alleviate the plight of students. They are now employing a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) solution that allows the Field Office to collect, encode, and process information from field surveys in half the time it used to take.

"The shortened time from data collection to analysis enables us to make quick yet informed decisions regarding the implementation of program interventions that make positive changes in the lives of needy children," said Edgar Geolina, Save the Children's Executive Officer.

The project, named the PDA Survey Project, improves research productivity and boosts the level of data gathering and uploading in the field. The data no longer requires the expensive intervention of data entry operators, and questionnaires can quickly be designed, revised, and utilized, without massive amounts of paper being used.

PDAs also gave survey designers the ability to revise survey entries and implement them quickly on the spot without additional cost, Geolina said. He added that the software also enabled the survey designer to reduce the probability for data entry error.

The first deployment of the PDAs occurred in selected schools in Iloilo. The Field Office staff members noted that the surveys took less time and effort compared to the paper-based surveys that they had used before. This meant that they had more time to spend on the actual analysis of data and the design and revision of the field programs.

"The Philippine Field Office of Save the Children has long recognized the value of what timely and accurate information can do for field programs. This technological solution will really help them in achieving their mission of helping the children of the Philippines. Microsoft is happy to be part of an endeavor that helps develop our children's potential," said Dittas Formoso, __________ of Microsoft Consulting Services, the solution developer.

PDAs are hand-held devices that are generally used for organizing personal concerns like schedules and contact numbers. The project takes the use of PDAs to the corporate level. Data collected through these PDAs are loaded onto a server through Microsoft's ActiveSync technology. The server used in the project is a notebook computer that can be taken out into the field closer to where the PDAs are being deployed.

The solution is based on Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002, Microsoft Embedded Technologies, and SQL CE.
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