A Glimpse of the Philippines’ Education Crisis

A Glimpse of the Philippines’ Education Crisis

By Joshua Villalobos
Member, HAPI-Bacolod | HAPI Scholar

November 2022, Bacolod City, Philippines – A few days ago, on a break in the middle of a discussion on climate change and just transition, I happened to talk to one of my friends who is taking up a degree in education. Set to graduate this year, he is currently on his academic internship.

During his deployment in a school here in the province, he found that one of his students in 2nd-year high school (Grade 8) could neither read nor write. “How can they take a test in English when they don’t understand the language?” my friend told me.

“How can they take a test in English when they don’t understand the language?”

A few years back, you were not allowed to finish Grade 1 if you cannot read; now, students can graduate high school while having difficulty pronouncing and comprehending English texts.

Later that day, I shared the above story with my friend who is a preschool teacher in an elementary school in Bacolod. This type of discussion is not new to us; in fact, we always talk about how the Department of Education’s policies enable this system. According to her, teachers would rather just let the student pass – even if they lack the necessary qualifications – because of the added work that they might need to put in if they decide to not let the students proceed.

To be fair, I cannot entirely put the blame on the teachers who already do a lot of tasks aside from teaching and administrative work. Even before the pandemic, they have been burdened with the vaccination of students, deworming, etc.

Nevertheless, DepEd has long enforced a policy where schools are encouraged to ensure the quality of learning of students. The objective of the policy was great in the beginning, but the actual results are worrisome.

Whether it is attributable to this policy or not, several studies reveal the education crisis in the Philippines.

  • We are among the worst countries in the world ranking in math, science, and reading among 79 countries;
  • A World Bank report says 80% of Filipino kids do not know what they should know and learn from schools;
  • We have the lowest reading comprehension among 79 countries.

Years back, HAPI-Bacolod implemented a summer learning program where preschoolers are taught science, math, climate science, etc. It was one of HAPI-Bacolod’s most successful endeavors. I hope it could be replicated somewhere else and there would be enough resources to reinstitute the program again.

One of HAPI’s flagship programs is called HAPI-SHADE or the Secular Humanist Advocacy Development and Education where it extends assistance to teachers and learners to help the education sector.

Humanists around the world, but particularly in the Philippines, must scale up efforts for education. We should develop and implement programs that aid learning among students in the Philippines because this crisis will not avert unless acted upon.

Humanists around the world must scale up efforts for education.

Moreover, we should engage the Department of Education and its new secretary to look at these anecdotes and data and avoid the status quo; the future of our country depends on it.

Before, the problem was a lack of education. Now, there is education but it seems like learning is absent among our learners.

This social issue, like any other, requires a whole-of-society approach where the government, parents, learners, NGOs, and academic institutions should work together to rescue the education sector from a deep rabbit hole.

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