by Verna Mae Barrozo and Mariel Amor Vargas

Published on Business Mirror

18 July 2017

TO better teach 21st-century learners, a company advocates for virtual reality (VR) be integrated and utilized in the Philippine educational system.

Paolo Espiritu, CEO and cofounder of Haraya Labs, a VR platform-building company, shared in a networking event sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that is time for the country to introduce VR as a great tool in engaging students and helping them keep up with the other countries’ standard in education.

“We’re very much behind in education, and what you’ve seen with virtual reality, you can see how we can keep up with, if not surpass, other countries,” he said last Tuesday, at the QBO Hub in the DTI’s International Building along Gil J. Puyat Avenue in Makati City.

Citing a study by Seamo Innovation that found that Filipino students spend about twice the amount of classroom time in studying science as some of our Asian neighbors, the young CEO added laboratory experience should follow, and VR can be an alternative.

“If we’re already spending twice the amount of time in the classroom, what’s the problem? Well, that’s exactly the problem,” Espiritu said. “We’re spending too much time in the classroom and very little time in laboratories.”

Haraya Labs is a start-up company that “builds virtual-reality platforms where students can experience laboratories, interactive laboratories, for students to learn science and technology.”

A robotics kit usually costs a few hundred dollars, while space education requires billions of pesos. Espiritu added VR solves the affordability issues of learning through physical laboratories and equipment. The company sells VR kits for P500; these already contain the hardware and contents on robotics, chemistry and space education.

It also eliminates the hazards of learning chemistry, the CEO said.

“In virtual reality, students don’t need to be exposed to these elements, to these corrosions and burns,” he added.

The first educational VR platform in the country recently started selling to about 1,000 customers in homeschools and are in talks with private schools to integrate it into their curriculum. Espiritu plans to eventually present this to the Department of Education (DepEd) once they get enough support from schools.

“We’ll start with private schools. If we have enough schools, we’ll approach [the] DepEd. What we’re hoping is we’ll have the subsidy grant from [the] DepEd, such that our tech would be free for all,” he said.

Espiritu acknowledged the hurdle of making VR a norm among traditional school administrators and educators using blackboards and textbooks as the only teaching method.

“The challenge in normalizing VR in the Philippines is really convincing the school administrators on the benefits of VR,” Espiritu said. “What we have to do is show [that], in today’s age of modern technology, we have to evolve with the times and use modern tools and teaching methods, like VR, to fully capture the students’ attention and boost their learning capability.”

As far as the company’s VR kits are concerned, Haraya Labs plans to convince academic institutions that the quality of the kits’ current and future contents are worth investing in.

“We’re depending on our content, so we’re making a world-class curriculum so that once they see the curriculum, they can see the instant benefit of it. So really, in other words, the platform is good; it’s worth it,” he said.

Espiritu was part of the “Wildcard QLITAN: Integrating Virtual Reality into our Daily Lives!” session that featured VR professionals from Veer Immersive Technologies, and VR Philippines, as well.