Letting students sit out a year could slow economic recovery, advocacy group warns
Taguig Sanitation Office sprays a disinfectant solution at bus terminals and schools to contain the possible spreading of COVID-19.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

Letting students sit out a year could slow economic recovery, advocacy group warns

Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - July 9, 2020 - 7:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — Letting students take a year off amid coronavirus fears could be bad for the economy as this could eventually tighten the supply of new graduates that companies can hire to help them bounce back from the pandemic's economic fallout, an advocacy group warned Thursday.

"We cannot afford to have them sit out a year and that should be the worst case scenario for us," Love Basillote, Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) executive director, said in a virtual press conference.

"In terms of demand, some employers will still be hiring but if you don't have graduates, it might be difficult for them to find people that will help them recover from this crisis," Basillote added.

Results of a PBEd survey of 422 respondents aged 15-25 showed that from April 27 to May 6 — the height of the Luzon lockdown — 97% of participants said they had stopped schooling while 86% said they lost their jobs when the government imposed tough quarantine measures in a desperate bid to break the virus contagion.

Meanwhile, all respondents said they stopped their skills training during the community quarantine period.

In May, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not allow students to return to school until a coronavirus vaccine, which could take years to develop, is available, defying Education Secretary Leonor Briones whose agency had been busy preparing schools for the resumption of classes in August.

Duterte said resuming face-to-face classes without a vaccine for COVID-19 "spells disaster". But Briones insisted that the country cannot postpone classes and wait for a vaccine to be available.

The president later said he supports the Department of Education's push for "blended" or distance learning so classes can resume. But even this poses a huge roadblock for an archipelago where many households in remote areas don't have access to the internet.

Latest data from DepEd shows more than 19 million students have enrolled for the upcoming school year as of July 9. According to PBEd's Basillote, missing school for a year could weaken the country's healthcare system at a time the pandemic is overwhelming hospitals as this would prevent students in medical courses from graduating in time and joining the frontline.

Letting students sit out a year would also mean missing a year worth of learning opportunities, she added.

"So on the demand side, if we want our economy to recover we can't afford our youth to sit out a year," Basillote said. 

"On the supply side, imagine if you have one year of learning that will be put on pause, how much learning loss will our youth will suffer from? So that's gonna be a lot. It will degrade the little learning that they had from the previous years," she added.

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