DepEd says dealing with 'learning poverty' after release of new World Bank report

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 24 2021 05:10 PM

MANILA — Interventions are already being implemented to address the issues on education quality in the country, including "learning poverty," the Department of Education (DepEd) said Wednesday.

The DepEd made the statement following the recent release of a World Bank report, which found that 9 in 10 Filipino children aged 10 cannot read.

According to the report, made public in a Nov. 18 statement, the Philippines has a 90 percent learning poverty, defined as the inability of a child to "read and understand simple text by age 10."

The World Bank said children should be able to read by age 10 since "reading is a gateway for learning as the child progresses through school."

"An inability to read constrains opportunities for further learning," it said.

The World Bank's report, titled "Remote Learning During COVID-19: Lessons from Today, Principles for Tomorrow," also found that as of March 2021, only 20 percent of Filipino households with children were engaged in distance learning.

Philippine schools implemented distance learning after in-person classes were banned last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under distance learning, students studied from their homes through printed and digital modules, online classes, and education programs aired via television and radio.

 'A dilemma for years'

In response to the report, the DepEd said it already introduced programs to address the challenges in education quality, including learning poverty.

"The issue of learning poverty has been a dilemma of the country for years and the Department is proactively dealing with it for the long term," it said in a statement.

The agency cited its Bawat Bata Bumabasa initiative, under which DepEd field offices are implementing "contextualized approaches to increase reading proficiency among learners."

It also noted its continued efforts to review the basic education curriculum.

Last year, the DepEd revised the curriculum, reducing learning competencies by 60 percent to retain those considered "most essential."

The DepEd said it was also preparing for the participation of Filipino students in upcoming international assessments "to closely evaluate our efforts."

The Philippines ranked last in reading, and second to last in science and mathematics among 79 countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment in 2018.

Filipino students also performed poorly in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics in 2019.

In 2019, the DepEd launched the Sulong Edukalidad campaign, pivoting its policy toward improving the quality of education from raising enrollment figures. 

"We have come a long way in our quest for quality education but we are not yet done with our journey," the agency said.

"Our efforts must be consistent, cohesive, and collaborative for us to achieve in delivering quality education to every Filipino child," it added.

 Expand, speed up school reopening

In a statement, the Movement for Safe, Equitable Quality and Relevant (SEQuRe) Education said the findings of the World Bank report should prompt the government "to expand and hasten safe school reopening in the country."

"With the very late decision for the pilot run and at the slow rate the authorities are going... it is apparent that we still have an excruciatingly long way to go before we can see the majority of our schools safely reopened to learners," said SEQuRE, a network of education experts, teachers, parents and students.

The group was referring to the pilot implementation of in-person classes, which started this November in 120 schools.

The pilot study is the first in the government's three-phased plan to reopen basic education schools. The second "expansion" phase is expected to begin early next year.

SEQuRE said interventions should also be given to learners who are still waiting for their schools to hold in-person classes.

"Reading tutors can be deployed to communities to organize small reading sessions, with ample observance of minimum health standards," it said.