2022 Issues that Matter: Education

Pre-pandemic, the country's state of education was already beset with a multitude of issues and concerns such as overcrowded classrooms, unattractive compensation packages for educators and poor public education infrastructure quality. As a further indication of the state of our education, the Philippines ranked lowest out of 79 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment in 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic further compounded the poor state of the country’s education. Based on figures by the United Nations in 2020, over 28 million students in the Philippines were severely affected by forced school closures due to the implemented lockdowns. 

The Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education were forced to adopt with the imposed restrictions through a myriad of academic setups such as online learning, distance learning, flexible learning, and modular learning schemes. This shift has posed severe implementation challenges, risks and problems to both students and teachers, particularly among Higher Education Institutions based on a study by Bao in 2020. The challenges and problems vary- from students having no laptops and gadgets for online learning up to terrible internet connectivity especially in the far-flung areas to hastily done modules which were intensely scrutinized by many sharp-minded netizens for glaring errors.

With the easing of lockdowns in many parts of the country, the government is prepared to pilot face-to-face classes. As of this date, the Philippines is one of five countries in the world that have not yet started face-to-face classes since the start of the pandemic. Beyond the resumption of face-to-face classes, the Philippine Educational System faces a tough road ahead post-pandemic.

The adoption and implementation of a clear and continuing education roadmap will be critical in improving the state of education in the country. The consolidation of prior education roadmaps and post-COVID educational plans will help ensure the recovery of the country's education system from the impact of the pandemic, build on the gains of the recently implemented K to 12 program, and address key opportunity areas.

We should also leverage on the opportunities presented by online learning platforms to complement in-person activities. A fast and reliable internet connectivity is critical to ensure unhampered learning, hence part of the improvement in public education infrastructure should be to build more digital infrastructure to support online learning schemes.

We should also increase government expenditure on education (% of government expenditure) from the current 14 to between 15-20%, which should be attuned to the Global Education 2030 Framework for Action.

Most importantly, initiatives on research and development (R&D) should be adequately supported by the government. This includes enticement to students to enroll and venture into health, science and technology, and medical courses through specialized scholarship grants and student loan programs.

 

A combination of continuity and package of reforms are necessary in improving the state of our public education. The next administration will have to recognize prior gains but have the wherewithal to implement changes, when and where necessary.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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