Students, economy face losses with prolonged school closure, advocacy group warns

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2021 04:30 PM

A student attends an online class while inside his home in Parañaque on September 24, 2020. Due to the pandemic, Filipino students have been forced to study via distance learning. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Prolonged school closures may lead to heavier losses for students and the economy, a non-government organization advocating for quality education warned on Tuesday as it reiterated its appeal to the government to safely reopen schools and resume in-person classes.

“The longer we wait for our schools to open, the heavier the losses will be for our students and the economy. We appeal to the government to find ways to open schools safely so that our students can resume their learning,” said Love Basillote, executive director of the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd).

The statement came a day after Malacañang announced that President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposal for limited face-to-face classes in select parts of the country.

“We have around 3 million students who have dropped out of school this year because they cannot keep up with learning requirements,” Basillote lamented.

“With no alternatives left, we are abandoning a generation of young people. This has a grave impact on national development,” she added.

Around 25 million learners are registered in basic education this school year, according to DepEd data, down from last year’s total number of enrollees of over 27 million.

Basillote said dropouts would find it difficult to find employment opportunities since companies look for candidates with credentials and specific skill sets.

“We cannot expect an economic expansion with our companies going under because they cannot find skilled workers,” she said. 

Basillote clarified that her group does not want to endanger the lives of teachers and students by pushing for the resumption of in-person classes.

“But if we can safely reopen the economy following health guidelines and protocols, what is preventing us from safely reopening our schools?” she said.

She added that the Philippines can look at other countries that have safely reopened schools as models.

On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte rejected the proposed pilot test for limited face-to-face classes because the country has yet to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has said a survey by her agency showed that more than half of students are in favor of attending in-person classes. The DepEd, however, has not released the study itself.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, a group usually critical of the DepEd’s policies, also backed the reopening of schools, citing challenges in the current distance learning setup.

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