Resumption of in-person classes to address PH learning poverty: group

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 22 2022 01:49 PM

Watch more on iWantTFC

MANILA – An education advocacy group on Monday said it welcomes the reopening of face-to-face classes in many schools this year, noting that the shift to distance learning worsened “learning poverty” among Filipino students.

A World Bank report released in 2021 noted that the Philippines has a 90 percent learning poverty, defined as the inability of a child to "read and understand simple text by age 10."

This is considerably higher compared to the average in East Asia and Pacific region, which is at 34.5 percent. 

Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) acting executive director Justine Raagas said the reopening of schools will provide students an opportunity to catch up with their learning.

“One of the biggest opportunities actually now is their return to classes. Before the pandemic, the numbers for learning poverty, the numbers were lower. It was 70 percent. So the school closures, and the shift to purely modular learning, or lack of interaction in the classroom, or lack of supervision by teachers has actually exacerbated that,” she said. 

“There are ways to address this by making sure that gaps are plugged within the classroom. They’re assessed at the level where they are now, so they can be taught to catch up,” she added.

Raagas said the cause of learning poverty can be traced back to years of neglect of the country’s human capital.

“Our learners have always been going to school unprepared because they’re hungry. So there is that issue of malnutrition that stems very earlier on. Since 2001, one out of three five-year-olds in the country are stunted or too short for their age. Meaning, they go to school, they’re hungry. They have poor cognitive abilities. They can’t comprehend what’s being taught because they already have these poor conditions.”

She also noted that some teachers have been overburdened with administrative work.

“And lastly, we do not have enough resources. So while we have learning losses and gaps, historically only three percent of our (gross domestic product) has been allotted to the education sector, while the prescribed amount globally should be 6 percent of the GDP.”

While increasing the budget for education would help, Raagas said there are other ways to prevent the worsening of learning poverty in the country.

“There has to be a way to also make spending more efficient. There has to be a way to, say, decentralize and then make the decisions… The decisions actually in terms of what’s being spent, what has to be spent is all made centrally.”

“There has to be a way to think about empowering local (Department of Education) offices and (local government units) to make them more accountable so that response, or you know, initiatives can be done at the local level and can be done faster,” she explained.

--ANC, 22 August 2022