The Philippines stands to lose around P11 trillion in the next four-decades from the pandemic-induced school closures, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimated.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said Thursday, Sept. 9, that the prolonged disruption to education, which began in March 2020, already reduced students’ future earnings and wages.
Chua explained that the lack of face-to-face schooling in the country has limited the learning ability of students, and this has a permanent effect on the quality of future labor force.
“With the best data that we have, we have an estimate that productivity loss over the next 40 years is going to be around P11 trillion for the one year where we have no face-to-face schooling,” Chua said during a virtual Senate hearing.
NEDA’s estimate comes in the wake of an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report showing that the present value costs of face-to-face school closure are estimated to be at P1.9 trillion for the 2020–2021 school year, equivalent to over 10 percent of gross domestic product.
Asked by Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian about the big discrepancy between the NEDA and ADB estimates on productivity losses, Chua explained that they adjusted their calculations for inflation.
“We have actually discussed that with ADB and there are some assumption differences for instance, they did not adjust for inflation over the 40 years. And also, they were using a different paper source but we have clarified that,” Chua said.
The NEDA chief said ADB agreed that the potential productivity loss estimate will be bigger than the initial P1.9 trillion.
“We have the same method, the only difference is we adjusted for inflation over the 40 years that’s why it reached P11 trillion,” he said.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Philippines and Venezuela are the last countries where schools are still physically closed, as Kuwait, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia move to partially reopen this month.
UNICEF urged the Philippine government to reopen schools for in-person learning as soon as possible, and to provide a comprehensive recovery response for students.
The Philippines’ decision not to start in-person classes since the pandemic began has affected the right to learn of more than 27 million Filipino students, UNICEF said.
While new variants are causing a rise of infections, UNICEF said it is advocating for a phased reopening of schools, beginning in low-risk areas.
“This can be done on a voluntary basis with proper safety protocols in place,” UNICEF said.