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Opinion

The increasing struggle of Philippine education

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

The reality that we face today in the field of education is daunting. Last year, Save the Children organization warned us of an “unprecedented global education emergency,” where more than 1 billion children around the world are out of school due to the pandemic and almost 10 million children may never return to school following the COVID-19 lockdown.

In the Philippines, the Department of Education (DepEd) expected a drop of 20 percent of enrollment last school year. Online schooling was a great challenge to teachers who were not familiar with the digital world and, worse, who do not even have the technology and equipment. Students’ access to computers and internet connection was the biggest concern. The public school system had to remove 60 percent of their curriculum content to adjust to the remote learning approach.

Schools were fighting a battle unknown and even with very clear convictions – that is to “fight for the cause of the children” – many were lost and fell short of their expectations. After a year of online education, quite a few schools have decided to close down. Many students did not complete the school year. In other words, we saw the drop-out rate rising to extremes. Students struggled and either failed or were simply given passing grades. The online asynchronous learning and module learning platforms failed. These problems were all compounded by the teacher’s training for online education, the school’s internet capabilities and technical preparation. Not to mention that online program did not quite sustain the students’ attention and interest.

A mother from an exclusive private school was hysterical because her son totally blocked off his education. She was devastated that the school only gave once a week lectures of 2-3 hours per subject area while the rest of the week the child was forced to do worksheets through a self-learning process.

Another mother whose daughter studies in a public school said, “The teacher was always late. If not late, absent, I can count the number of contact hours they had on my fingers for the whole school year. My daughter did not learn anything. I’m sure she will have difficulty in the next grade level.”

How can our school children under basic education progress if their teachers do not understand their mental and emotional needs? Children from 0-18 years old should be guided by trained adults. They should not be taught like college students. They are still in a process of becoming. Modular and asynchronous learning must stop. This is one of the reasons why our country’s educational system is going downhill.

A week ago, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones demanded an apology from the World Bank after the results of an education survey conducted in 2018 showing gaps in Philippine education was published. Of course, World Bank was quick enough to apologize but that doesn’t mean the issue of concern has ended. We must confront our issues with open minds instead of denying the truth. What lies ahead of our country’s future is bleak. If the report was from 2018 data, I bet an updated report covering SY 2019-2020 and SY 2020-2021 will even be worse. The secretary must confront the problem and stop sugarcoating it.

What exactly did the World Bank report contain? It noted that majority of 15-year-olds do not understand fractions; that only 10 percent of Filipino fifth graders were at par with global standards due to students’ limited proficiency in the language of instruction, which is mostly in English; that bullying was prevalent across all levels and that school officials were not aware of the gravity of the violence in schools.

Basically, the report enumerated the gaps in our educational system. But this is something that we already know. What we do not know is how the present online system succeeded in both the public and private sectors. How many students completed the school year and how many students passed/ failed?

During the Laging Handa public briefing, Secretary Briones said that the DepEd is “ready” for another school year. In an interview with dzBB, DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said that the DepEd has been working on strengthening the weaknesses identified in the blended learning system adopted last year. These are correcting the errors in the learning modules, reproducing the learning modules especially for schools with damaged if not lost modules due to typhoons that caused flooding and other calamities, capacity building for evaluators so that they can improve on their work and having more learning evaluators.

When asked about what system does DepEd have to ensure that learning modules are appropriate for the students, he said that the agency has a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Normal University for quality assurance. Susmariosep!

Honestly, I feel that there are many things DepEd is not reporting. All they have mentioned are surface problems. They do not want us to know the deeply rooted problems that continue to exist in their bureaucracy.

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The most important problem of the day that demands our attention is the question of quality education in our country. Many respectable international institutions have pointed to this vital area of concern but our own leaders seem to be unfazed by it. Why must we continue to deny the truth? Why can’t we face and accept it with open arms? We’ve had these problems from time immemorial which have not been successfully resolved from the past administrations up to the present. The problem is deeply rooted and if we do not change our ways, they will persist.

All the country’s questions relating to education are vital problems that must be met and solved by Congress and Senate. Twenty-five centuries ago, when states were still beginning to flourish and still in the infancy period, a Greek philosopher declared that the foundation of every state is the education of its youth. That was true then, it has been true down the centuries and it is true now even to a greater extent, for education is the most important and greatest factor of modern civilization and progress.

Our leaders must not forget that schools are the vanguards as well as the rear guards of civilization; it goes boldly on to achieve new victories while at the same time it guards and garrisons territories that have been won and then transmits them as a precious heritage to our children and grandchildren.

I hope the problem in education we face today appeals to the sense of duty and responsibility of our leaders in all branches of government.

God bless our country!

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