Philippine education in crisis mode

EIGHTY YEAR OLD Secretary of Education Leonor Briones

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor

MANILA – An entire generation of Filipino students will complete their high school and college years with not enough knowledge to be employable. Or at least 80 percent of them will be educational underachievers.

So concluded the World Bank (WB) which stated in a report released to media last week that four out of every five Filipino students fall below the minimum proficiency levels.

And while Education Secretary Leonor Briones took exception with the WB’s conclusion, the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) agreed that education in the country is in “serious crisis.”

As such, the young generation’s future is in doubt, and with it the Philippines’ economic growth prospects.

PBEd chairman Ramon del Rosario, Jr. told local media this week that “we are seeing declining access and quality of education, affecting the learning outcomes and future prospects of our youth and our country.”

Del Rosario is the head of the Phinma Group of Companies and is Chairman Emeritus of the Makati Business Club, as well as chairman of Araullo University, University of Iloilo, University of Pangansinan, and Cagayan de Oro College.

Del Rosario is also an independent board member of the Ayala Corporation.

He is a graduate of De La Salle University, and earned his master’s degree in management at the Harvard Business School.

PBEd is an education advocacy group founded by the country’s top business leaders.

It was not only the WB that had a grim view of the current state of Philippine education. The Programme for International Student Assessment in 2018 found that 72% of 15-year-old Filipinos achieved low scores in Reading, Math, and Science.

There’s worse.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation, according to PBEd. With all schools closed at all levels to prevent the spread of the virus, public and private schools resorted to online classes in an experiment that shows signs of failing.

A survey by the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid with 9,000 parent-respondents showed they were forced to spend 40 percent more due to distance learning. But the increased spending did not result in better education for their children.

PBEd cited a Pulse Asia survey conducted this year showed that one out of four parents believe their children were not learning in the current set up.

With a few exceptions such as colleges of medicine and nursing, face-to-face classes remain suspended nationwide.

The Education department’s data for the current school year show that 1.1 million students did not enroll, even as 1,179 private schools closed down due to lack of enrollees.

Del Rosario called for drastic measures to correct the situation, including the passage of the Jobs Next Bill that would train more than seven million Filipino youth in the next five years for jobs that will be in great demand in the future.

He also asked private companies to help enhance the complementarity between private and public education by providing more work-based training for the youth.

Unless such actions are taken soonest, “we stand to suffer long-term ramifications of inaction and poor learning,” said del Rosario.

Meanwhile, Briones said the WB should apologize to the Philippines for failing to recognize the reforms being undertaken by the government.

While the WB did issue her a personal apology, she said it was the entire country that was insulted by the report which said Filipino students “do not know what they should know in school.”

Further, Briones said the WB’s conclusion was based on “old data.”

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro blamed the Duterte administration for the sad state of the country’s education system, saying “Our youth could have received better quality education and would not have performed poorly in international assessments” if more funds had been allotted for facilities and teachers’ pay increased further.

Castro blasted the Education department’s incompetence, resulting in its failure to institute real reforms.