Poverty in learning – Manila Standard


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job November 22, 2021 at 12:15 am

“How do you develop a digitally empowered and, more importantly, critical-minded citizenship? “

A World Bank report last week confirmed what we had an idea from the start: that the prolonged lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a serious blow to education systems around the world, in general, and to Philippines, in particular. Distance learning has not been as effective everywhere, and its effectiveness is mixed at best, said Cristobal Cobo, senior education and technology specialist at the World Bank. “Some countries provided digital online learning solutions, although a majority of students lacked digital devices or connectivity, which resulted in uneven participation, which further exacerbated existing inequalities,” said he declared. Here in the Philippines, the gaps are heartbreaking. As of March 2021, distance learning in the Philippines covered only 20% of households with schoolchildren – this is the lowest rate, comparable only to Ethiopia, among the countries surveyed. According to the World Bank, only 26.9% of Filipino students have high-speed internet access, even while 88.8% have access to mobile technology. The educational level of parents and guardians was also found to be important. Only 9 percent of children whose household members were elderly and had no education participated in distance learning activities. The number rises to 16 percent when adult family members have completed at least elementary or secondary education, and to 40 percent for children whose parents or guardians have a college education. As a result, learning poverty, defined as the proportion of 10-year-olds who cannot read or understand a simple story, was estimated at 90% in August. The World Bank – through its global education director Jaime Saavedra – has also said that blended learning, which uses a combination of online and in-person delivery methods, is here to stay. How then to best respond to these findings, faced with the specter of the reopening of schools in the coming weeks? In fact, the Department of Education last week launched a pilot series of face-to-face courses in some regions, and the Higher Education Commission is preparing to do the same for higher-level schools in the near future. We build on the World Bank’s characterization of blended learning as something that will remain even after COVID numbers continue to drop. Effective teaching, appropriate technology, and engaged learners are essential to achieving the goals of education as we try to reclaim and move forward with our way of life. Problems in the education system that existed before the pandemic should be addressed alongside new efforts to improve internet access and digital adaptability. There is no going back to a purely offline learning mode, so we need to find a way to use technology to empower the human factor by providing quality education to more young Filipinos. At the root of it all is the need to develop citizens who can think for themselves – seeking evidence, verifying claims, and coming up with their own conclusions instead of repeating a scenario. This is a major challenge for the training of officials in the next administration. This is all the more the reason why Filipinos should be more demanding of their candidates in the next elections. Reject leaders who condemn young people to intellectual laziness and dishonesty, and only support those who have a real plan to develop a digitally empowered and, more importantly, critical-minded citizenship.

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Norma A. Roth