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DOF joins DepEd in demanding World Bank apology over 'outdated' report

Ramon Royandoyan - Philstar.com
DOF joins DepEd in demanding World Bank apology over 'outdated' report
Finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III echoed the sentiment of Education Secretary Leonor Briones, who said the country was “insulted” by the lender’s report.
AFP / Eric Baradat

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance has backed calls for the World Bank to issue a public apology over an unflattering report showing Filipino students are not meeting learning standards.

Finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III echoed the sentiment of Education Secretary Leonor Briones, who said the country was “insulted” by the lender’s report. In a letter to World Bank Group President David Malpass — excerpts of which were released by the DOF on Thursday — the finance chief called the findings “outdated” and hit the Bank’s staff for their supposed “lack of professionalism".

He then asked the Bank to take down the report from its website. Philstar.com reached out to World Bank’s office in Manila but it has yet to comment on the DOF’s statement as of reporting.

“The failure of Bank officials to follow the protocol of consulting with the DepEd (Department of Education) prior to publication further illustrates the lack of professionalism which we come to expect from the World Bank and its staff,” Dominguez told Malpass.

“Such a Report should be taken out from the Bank’s website as not to further mislead the public. We also believe that a public apology to the DepEd and the National Government (NG) is in order,” he added.

The report in question, titled “Improving Student Learning Outcomes and Well-Being in the Philippines: What Are International Assessments Telling Us? (Vol.2): Synthesis Report Presentation”, was conducted in 2019, or before the pandemic struck and upended the country’s education system.

According to the report released June 29, there is “a crisis in education – which started pre-COVID, but will have been made worse by COVID.” World Bank found that more than 80% of Filipino children do not know what they should know, and this “poor performance” is deeply rooted in students’ limited proficiency in the languages in which schooling takes place. The lender also flagged “high levels” of bullying that makes school climate “unacceptably poor”.

The World Bank’s report is still available on its website as of reporting.

In his letter to Malpass, Dominguez said the “outdated findings” have already been addressed by DepEd and the Philippines’ development partners, the World Bank included. It “does not reflect current realities,” Dominguez argued.

To note, the report in question also sourced some of its data from government agencies, including the Philippine Statistics Authority and the Department of Budget and Management. Speaking to reporters in Malacañang last Monday, Briones said World Bank used “old” data for its report and that a lot had happened since 2019. It is unclear if DepEd or the DOF would debunk the report by submitting new data to World Bank.

Since the pandemic hit home last year, schoolchildren and parents had to rely on the DepEd’s blended system of learning, a mix of online lectures and turning in printed modules. But the current set-up has proven to be difficult for both teachers and students as hurdles remain, such as maintaining focus in drawn-out online classes and poor access to smart devices and reliable internet connection, especially in the countryside.

CARLOS DOMINGUEZ III DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE DEPED LEONOR BRIONES WORLD BANK
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