As poverty and education have always been closely interrelated, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that governments – like the Philippines – must find means to address these challenges.
“We did not need a pandemic to tell us that because that was already the situation,” Briones said during a pre-State of the Nation (SONA) virtual press briefing on Wednesday, July 14, noting how poverty has been affecting the education sector – particularly the learners.
“Therefore, the challenge for governments, not only the Philippines, but the rest of the world is to compensate that – especially right now the trend in communications, in education, of course, is towards digitalization, towards technology and that even worsens or exacerbates the gap even more,” she added.
Even before the pandemic, Briones noted that it has always been “very clear to the entire world” – not just in the Philippines – that there is a “clear link and divide” between poverty or the level of poverty of a country and also the opportunities for education.
“That has been very clear right from the beginning through the many crises that we have suffered as a global community and as a country like the Philippines,” Briones said.
The correlation between enrollment and employment
Briones also noted how poverty has been affecting education in terms of enrollment. “We’ve already said very, very clearly, right from the beginning, that the reductions in enrollment, for example last year, last October, was really focused on the private sector schools,” she said.
Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Philippines shut down its schools in March 2020. For the first time, classes started in October for public schools but under a remote or distance learning set-up. While some private schools were allowed to start their respective school years early on, over a thousand decided to temporarily shut down their operations due to lack of enrollment.
“There was a very clear increase in the enrollment in the public sector schools because there was migration from private schools,” Briones said. “And at the same time, there were very significant reductions in enrollment in the private schools because education is related to the state of employment, to the state of poverty,” she added.
Briones said that the government as well as the department recognize the problem of poverty and how it is closely linked to employment.
“We can also recall that at the start of the pandemic, we had hundreds and thousands of overseas workers who went home to the Philippines and they had no assurance of jobs and of course, the education of children was affected,” she explained.
Overall, Briones noted that the challenge related to poverty “has always been there” especially the challenge towards digitalization and technology – even before the pandemic.
However, she noted that “such challenge has been worsened” by the pandemic as education systems need to adjust and resort to the implementation of alternative learning delivery modalities in the absence of face-to-face learning.
“This is where the government has to come in and DepEd has been leaning – with the assistance of the Department of Finance, private sector, on the multilaterals – for help in this direction for digital tools, gadgets not only for our children but also for our teachers,” Briones added.