Prolonged closure of schools and longer delays in the resumption of face-to-face classes would translate to “heavier academic and economic losses” which would be “disastrous” for the country’s education system and economy, advocacy group Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) warned.
PBED, in a statement issued Tuesday, Feb. 23, renewed its call for the government to open schools in areas where the risk of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) transmission is low.
“Our country is already in a learning crisis, and the longer we wait for our schools to open, the heavier the losses will be for our students and the economy,” PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote said. “We appeal to the government to find ways to open schools safely so that our students can resume their learning,” she added.
PBEd’s statement comes as Malacañang on Monday, Feb. 22, rejected the recommendation of the Department of Education (DepEd) to resume face-to-face classes in the country.
President Duterte was quoted as saying that he does not want to endanger the lives of students and teachers since the country has yet to roll out its national vaccine plan.
“Let’s be clear: We don’t want to endanger the lives of our teachers and students either. But if we can safely reopen the economy following health guidelines and protocols, what is preventing us from safely reopening our schools?” Basillote said.
Basillote explained that currently, there are around three million students who have dropped out of school this year because they cannot keep up with learning requirements.
“With no alternatives left, we are abandoning a generation of young people,” she said. “This has a grave impact on national development,” she added.
Meanwhile, PBED said the Philippines can look at models of safe reopening of classes abroad – those informed by science and are limited to areas where the prevalence and transmission rates of COVID-19 are low.
Basillote added that it is important to look at the issue from a bigger perspective, given the link between the country’s education sector and the economy.
PBED noted that students who have dropped out of the school system will find it difficult to find employment opportunities, as companies look for candidates with credentials and specific skills sets. Companies, on the other hand, cannot operate without a skilled workforce.
“We cannot expect an economic expansion with our companies going under because they cannot find skilled workers,” she added.
In a televised briefing last week, DepEd said more than half of students in the country are calling for the resumption of face-to-face classes because they believe they will benefit from it.
Results of a survey conducted late last year by education group Aral Pilipinas among 9,716 Filipinos also showed that 75% of respondents agreed with the resumption of face-to-face classes.
Of the 7,297 who said yes to opening of schools, 53% believed that children learn better with face-to-face classes.
Most of the respondents came from poor families, as 92% of them were beneficiaries of the government’s conditional cash transfer program.