A World Bank report on the quality of education in the region places the Philippines among the poorest in learning in East Asia and the Pacific, with nine out of ten of Filipinos unable to read and understand a simple, age appropriate reading material by age 10.
The country scored an identical 91 percent “learning poverty” rate in the 2022 WB report, when the study was conducted before the return of face-to-face classes and after two years of remote learning due to the pandemic.
There was no improvement whatsoever in the 2023 report, as the Philippines is still among eight nations that registered a learning poverty rate of higher than two thirds, despite the return of in-person classes in November 2022. The other seven unfortunate nations are Cambodia, Kiribati, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
Learning poverty is defined by WB as being unable to read and understand short, age appropriate texts by the age of 10, or between Grade 4 and Grade 5 under the country’s K-12 system.
In comparison, learning poverty in high-income Japan, South Korea, and Singapore is only at 3 to 4 percent, the WB report showed, which emphasizes the breadth of the gap between the educational system Philippines and those countries.
The report noted that children in some countries are not acquiring basic educational skills, despite significant advances in school enrollment. It also found the quality of education to be much weaker in rural and poorer areas than urban and richer areas.
It also acknowledged that while multiple factors influence learning, it is the teachers that have the largest impact. Yet data from several countries in the region indicate that teachers often have limited knowledge of their subject, and teacher absenteeism is also seen as a major problem.
The data also suggests that while teachers get training each year, the programs do not employ practices linked to improved student learning.
The report said that support and political commitment from policymakers to raise learning outcomes will be crucial to ensuring that change takes place. “Tacking the problem of learning poverty would brighten the futures of generations of children and the economic prospects of the region,” said WB East Asia and Pacific chief economist Aaditya Mattoo.
Given that our Education Department is enjoying unprecedented support from lawmakers who seem to be willing to bend over backwards for Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte, would it be too much to expect that the country’s embarrassingly high learning poverty rate will finally be given due attention and more efforts will be made to lower it?
Maybe if can start with a government that stops blaming the leftists and rallies for these failures, and start doing what needs to be done instead.*