Despite efforts to increase its budget in the past 10 years, the education sector in the Philippines still suffers from lack of funding due to underspending, according to a new World Bank report.
In the World Development Report 2018, titled Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, the World Bank said the country’s budget for education saw a 19-fold increase between 2005 and 2015.
However, the Washington-based lender lamented that in 2014, around 30 percent of the government’s education budget for infrastructure was not committed.
“Despite a 19-fold increase in the infrastructure budget between 2005 and 2015, lack of government capacity to manage such a massive school-building program has meant that a large share of the resources remained unspent,” the report stated.
“In 2014 only 64 percent of the infrastructure budget was committed. And even where classrooms were built, school principals have been largely unsatisfied with their quality,” it added.
Apart from underspending, the WB report also said public funds failed to reach schools as intended.
The report stated the martial-law period in the 1970s saw government spending below 2 percent of GDP on education.
In the 1980s, the WB said, the People Power Revolution restored democratic rule, ushering in a new government that was more responsive to demands for broader access to education.
Further, the WB said, in 2013, about a quarter of public funds for education did not reach primary and lower secondary schools.
The report stated that, instead of reaching public elementary and secondary schools, some of the funds were used for district level operating costs.
“In the Philippines, while district education offices reported using some of the funds to pay school expenses, this use was not recorded and schools had no way of monitoring the spending. Schools in the Philippines that served poorer students also received a smaller share of their intended allocation than schools serving wealthier students,” the WB said.
The lack of funds for the education sector, the report explained, was partly to blame why 34 percent of primary-school children in developing countries still fail to achieve minimum proficiency in learning.
In high-income countries, the bank said nearly all students, or 99 percent in Japan, 98 percent in Norway, 91 percent in Australia, achieve this level in primary school.
The bank added the average share of students who complete this proficiency level in low-income countries is only 14 percent; in lower middle-income countries, 37 percent; and upper-middle-income countries only 61 percent.
“No single learning assessment has been administered in all countries, but combining data from learning assessments in 95 countries makes it possible to establish a globally comparable ‘minimum- proficiency’ threshold in math,” the WB said.
“Below this threshold, students have not mastered even basic mathematical skills, whether making simple computations with whole numbers, using fractions or measurements or interpreting simple bar graphs,” it added.
The report said the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, or Education Commission, estimated that low- and middle-income countries like the Philippines need to increase its spending for education by 117 percent between 2015 and 2030.
This is needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to enable most children to complete primary and secondary education with minimum levels of learning.
Without these investments and education reform, the WB said global education will face a “learning crisis” that will cause millions of young students in low- and middle-income countries to face low wages later in life.
“This learning crisis is a moral and economic crisis,” WB Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “When delivered well, education promises young people employment, better earnings, good health and a life without poverty. For communities, education spurs innovation, strengthens institutions and fosters social cohesion. But these benefits depend on learning, and schooling without learning is a wasted opportunity. More than that, it’s a great injustice. The children whom societies fail the most are the ones who are most in need of a good education to succeed in life.”
The report recommended concrete policy steps to help developing countries resolve this dire learning crisis in the areas of stronger learning assessments, using evidence of what works and what doesn’t to guide education decision-making; and mobilizing a strong social movement to push for education changes that champion “learning for all”.
Some of the solutions WB supported was the use of student’s own language when learning. The bank said a pilot study done in the Philippines showed students improving their scores in reading and math when using their “mother tongue “instead of English and Filipino”.
“Developing countries are far from where they should be on learning. Many do not invest enough financial resources and most need to invest more efficiently. But it is not only a matter of money; countries need to also invest in the capacity of the people and institutions tasked with educating our children,” said Jaime Saavedra, a former Peruvian Education Minister, and now the World Bank’s senior director for education. “Education reform is urgently needed and requires persistence, as well as the political alignment of the government, the media, entrepreneurs, teachers, parents and students. They all have to value and demand better learning.”