MANILA (UPDATE) - Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday urged the administration to declare a crisis in education to address the needs of students and teachers hit by the pandemic.
Robredo said government should focus on solutions rather than being defensive after a World Bank report found 80 percent of Filipino students fall below the minimum level of proficiency for their grade levels.
The report was based on the 2019 Program for International Student Assessment, the Department of Education said as it sought an apology from the World Bank. The financial institution has since issued an apology.
"Ang daming puwedeng gawin. Para sa'kin, yun nga, magdeklara na tayo ng education crisis kasi mas mabagal tayong nagre-react, mas gumagrabe ang problema natin," she said in her weekly radio show.
(We can do so many things. We should declare an educational crisis because our problem worsens as we react slowly.)
"In fairness sa DepEd, marami na silang ginagawa na hindi na-reflect dun sa World Bank study. Sana magkaroon ng update based on the latest data para mas alam natin kung nasaan tayo ngayon. More than a year nang wala sa paaralan ang mga bata, mas na-exacerbate pa ang sitwasyon. Sana mali ako."
(In fairness to the DepEd, they have done so much that was not reflected yet on the World Bank study. I hope there will be an update based on the latest data so we know where we are right now. Children have been out of school for more than a year, this has exacerbated the situation. I hope I'm wrong.)
Robredo also cited the poor assessment on students’ performance on major subjects like Math, Science and English.
The budget allocation for the education sector has taken a backseat from 2018 to 2021, she added.
“Dapat sana yung budget for education ay at least 6 percent ng GDP (gross domestic product) natin," Robredo said.
(Our budget for education should be at least 6 percent of our GDP.)
“Sana mas bigyan natin ng importansya yung education kasi ang laki ng problema natin as far as education is concerned.”
(I hope we can give more importance to education because we have a big problem as far as education is concerned.)
Spending for students' nutrition has also decreased over the years, according to the Vice President.
“Ang isang nakakatakot ay malnutrition, kasi 'di ba ang paniniwala, kapag malnourished ang bata, mahihirapan siyang mag-aral 'pag walang laman ang tiyan," she said.
(What we fear is malnutrition because if a child is malnourished, they will struggle to study on an empty stomach.)
There are also still challenges in providing quality education during the pandemic, such as teachers not being given the adequate support they need, according to her.
“Kulang ang support sa mga teachers. Paano nila matutulungan ang mga estudyante na mag-perform? Nagi-invest ba tayo sa teacher training? Gaano kalaki ang in-iinvest natin? Kumusta ang pay sa ating mga teachers?” she asked.
(Support for teachers is lacking. How will they help students perform? Do we invest in teachers' training? How big and how much are our teachers earning?)
There is a wide divide in online class accessibility among private and public school students, Robredo added.
Some 41.2 percent of classes in private schools are done online versus 2.1 percent in public schools, Robredo said, citing 2020 DepEd data.
Meantime, 87.4 percent of public school classes are done through printed modules versus 28 percent in private schools, she added.
"Grabe yung digital divide ng mga bata sa public at private schools. Ang tanong, ano ba ang ginagawa natin para ma-close ang gap na to?" Robredo said.
(The digital divide among children in public and private schools is too great. The question is what are we doing to close this gap.)
The Office of the Vice President has launched nearly 60 community learning hubs nationwide, she said.
The DepEd is developing joint guidelines with the Department of Health on the reintroduction of face to face classes, Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan earlier said.
Schools in basic education remain closed, as students shifted to distance learning for School Year 2020-2021.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the pilot test of limited face-to-face classes in December 2020, but withdrew his approval weeks later because of concern for new COVID-19 variants.
Some 93 colleges and universities in 15 regions have opened for limited face-to-face classes in Medicine and allied courses, based on the June 21 data of the Commission on Higher Education.
--With reports from Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News