Learning crisis is real: Unite to solve it now

Column box-Dr. Carl E. Balita-Entrepreneurs’ Footprints

On October 21, 2020, this writer published an article, Why Business Sector Should Push for EdCom 4.0. Here are the highlights of that paper—but the full article can still be searched in the BusinessMirror web site: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2020/10/21/why-business-sector-should-push-for-edcom-4-0/

The 1987 Constitution states that the state shall “give priority to education” and “promote total human liberation and development.” The constitution provides for the integrated system of and relevant education, free public basic education, and compulsory for all school age children. It mandates that “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.” It provides that “the State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education.”

From the proposed 2021 national budget of P4.506 trillion, the education sector gets the highest allocation at P754.4 billion (16.74 percent of the total budget), which is 8.8 percent higher than the P650.2 billion allocation for 2020.

The P47.12 billion is set aside for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education and another P27.99 billion will serve as education assistance and subsidies for students. Other programs with allocated funding in the education sector include the DepEd’s computerization program, the school-based feeding program, and the Alternative Learning System.

In 1990 the Congressional Commission on Education was created. The 14 summarized findings included those that were most significant to business and industry, which were the manpower mismatch and irrelevance of education. The EdCom recommendations led to major education reforms. The Enhanced Basic Education Act gave birth to the K-12 curriculum only in 2013.

In 2018, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Fifteen-year-old students in the Philippines scored lower in reading, mathematics and science than those in most of the countries and economies that participated. Over 80 percent of students in the Philippines did not reach a minimum level of proficiency in reading.  Out of the 79 countries, the Philippines ranked 78th in reading and 77th in science and in mathematics.

The expenditure per student in the Philippines was the lowest among all PISA-participating countries/economies—and 90 percent lower than the OECD average.

The Louder Voice of Business

On March 29, 2021, the Philippine Business for Education initiated a Joint Membership Meeting of the eight of the biggest business organizations in the country, including the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, PBEd, Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

PBEd Chairman Ramon del Rosario, Jr. warned that the growth trajectory of our nation is being threatened by the learning crisis. He asked three questions, namely, Will our work force have the skills they need to keep up with the changing business landscape? Will our industries thrive on the back of our future work force? He warns further that if we do nothing to arrest the decline in our education system, the answer to these questions is a resounding no.

PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote stated that it’s not unreasonable to say that if future members of the work force are not receiving the proper education right now, they are not getting the skills they need to secure employment in the future. She concluded that businesses simply cannot be competitive if they lack the skilled work force that will help them thrive.

In an evidence-based PBEd opening video, the major issues were cited including the access to education which remains an issue, as well as quality of education—with 2.7 million learners who were not enrolled this school year and millions of students being left behind. The video also showed that the country is not putting enough resources on education with pre-primary education being the shortest in Southeast Asia.

Bro. Armin A. Luistro’s keynote presentation slides opened up with the statement that “the learning crisis is big, multi-faceted, multi-player and multi-generational.” The former Education Secretary cited the “double shock” of school closure and economic recession that may result in precipitous fall in learning around the world, particularly in low and lower-middle income countries.

He proposed five lessons and insights, namely, Social Equity, Nutrition, Budget, Curriculum and School Management.

Related to the issue of Social Equity, the DepEd data presents 4,536 waterless schools and 1,562 unenergized schools.  There was also a report of 6.2 million children with insufficient load, 6.8 million lack of gadgets and 6.9 million learners with unstable connections. Solution may come from the engagement of the higher education institutions in bridging the gap and the localized solutions from the local governments.

On nutrition or health state of the learners, the SEAPLM in 2019 cited that 52 percent learners have poor health, 44 percent of learners are hungry and 37 percent of learners lack sleep. DepEd and SWS report in 2020 that 9.89 percent of the enrolled students (2.2 million students) are malnourished, citing a hunger incidence of 30.7 percent. Solutions bring back the old gains of the Nutribun and Mingo meals, along with the efficient use of the 6.4 billion budget for school-based feeding programs in 2020.

On the budget issue, the PISA noted that the Philippines is spending per learner 10 percent of the OECD average. And that in 2020, the DepEd budget was only 13.5 percent, a decline from the 17 percent in 2017, and far below the ideal education budget of 20 percent. The solution cites the Mandanas Ruling where in 2022, the LGU income will increase and which may be used for education. The strengthening and the professionalization of the local school board may be useful alongside smart investments on education.

Related to curriculum, the SEAPLM reported that of the countries in the Asean, only the Philippines chose English as the language in the PISA examination, where the Filipino learners scored poorly, instead of the mother tongue. The mother-tongue based multi-lingual education in the Philippines is shortest—from kinder to Grade three—as compared with neighboring countries that sustain mother tongue use up to grade five or even longer.  Solutions are seen in the light of strengthening the mother tongue-based multi-lingual education, the creation of the teacher parent support, and a maximized IT learning.

In line with school management, it was noted by PISA and SEAPLM that the Philippines has 65 percent bullied learners, 20 percent unsafe learners and 26 percent lonely learners. The hiring of teacher aides was proposed alongside increasing the quality learning hours. The monitoring of inclusion and well-being is also proposed as well as the moving of class hours later in a day.

PCCI Human Resources Development Foundation President Dr. Alberto Fenix, for his part, noted that as early as last quarter of 2020, the PCCI already pushed for the EdCom II. He therefore proposed a private sector-initiated Educational Commission, which may be called immediately to create a roadmap in addressing these learning crises. His recommendation got the resounding support of the business organizations.

The conclusion is that unless we come up with something urgent and comprehensive, we are throwing away the future of an entire generation of Filipino learners. And the business sector wouldn’t want, in the future, to look back with regret and frustration at the footprints they leave. Action has to be made now.

For feedback, please send e-mail to drcarlbalita@yahoo.com.


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