Recovering lost education

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

One very important task the next president must do upon assuming office this year is to prioritize the recovery of education from this pandemic. Our next leader should select a Secretary of Education who can effectively implement what the joint report by the UNICEF, UNESCO and World Bank dubbed as “learning recovery strategies at scale to help children catch up.”

Two years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, education has been seriously disrupted, says the report entitled “Where are We on Education Recovery?”. “In response to this crisis, the global priority remains to ensure every child is supported so they can return to school and catch up on lost learning.”

Let’s admit it.  Remote learning under this pandemic, whether through modular or videoconference mode, is not working. As a part-time college teacher, I’ve grown tired of remote learning (and so have my students). We’re still doing the best we can, but one has the feeling that there’s a lot of things that are falling through the cracks.

Many students are struggling with family issues, financial burdens, illness, and mental health issues. How does a teacher deal with the chronic absenteeism of a student, for example? In normal times, it’s easier to reach out personally to a disengaged student, and then arrange to make up for lost time through more personalized instruction and other kinds of support.

Under the remote learning set-up in this pandemic, the school does not know what’s interrupting their students’ learning from the other end of the virtual line. Students who belong to economically-struggling families are at a disadvantage compared to their more comfortable peers. Access to the internet and information technology devices is a big problem for many Filipino students.

I must clarify that there is nothing wrong with remote learning per se. It has been subject to years of study, and many theories and pedagogical models have been advanced in this area. It’s the suddenness of the shift to remote learning due to the pandemic that created a big problem.

For one, private and public school administrators could not figure out the ideal class size per teacher. Financial constraints due to declining enrolment and economic pressure didn’t help in ensuring the ideal class size and methodology for quality interaction in synchronous and asynchronous modes of online learning. Remote education needs an ecosystem of learning that takes time to identify and develop. The pandemic simply didn’t give us that time.

The report released on March 30, 2022 states: “With a combined 2 trillion hours of in-person schooling lost due to school closures since March 2020, students in more than 4 in 5 countries have fallen behind in their learning.  Less well-off children have seen their learning falling back. In particular, the most marginalised – those living in poverty and rural areas, children with disabilities, and the youngest students – have fallen the furthest behind.”

In the Philippines, less than 10 percent of children can read simple text or comprehend a simple story as of February 28, 2022 or over 100 weeks after we physically closed our schools, the report shows. We are in a level together with Myanmar, Cambodia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Chad, Ethiopia, and Congo.

In order to recover our lost education, the next president must know the importance of these four factors: teacher training, education community engagement, national recovery plan, and accountability systems. On accountability systems, the report says that a strong emphasis must be placed on further strengthening a data-driven system that can help teachers and students demand improved learning opportunities.


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