Int’l study notes worst ‘learning loss’ among poorest PH kids
Schoolchildren from the country’s poorest households—many of whom grapple daily with weak internet connection and other technological constraints—have been hit hardest by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic as they suffered more in terms of “learning loss” compared to those in other countries.
Based on a global survey conducted by the London-based global education platform T4 Education, 72 percent of teachers in the Philippines had observed learning loss among children from impoverished families during the pandemic.
This was much higher than the global average of 56 percent who reported that poor economic status was a key factor behind academic setbacks.
Learning loss refers to a reversal in academic progress or loss of knowledge and skills due to the disruptions to a student’s way of life or educational system.
The prolonged lockdowns since the pandemic started in March last year forced the closure of schools in the country. The Department of Education (DepEd) implemented the blended distance learning system where students were provided with printed modules and access to digital learning platforms.
Largest int’l study
The T4 survey generated insights from 20,679 teachers across 165 countries, of which more than 7,000 were from the Philippines. Conducted from April to June this year, it is so far the world’s largest international study on teachers and education.
The teachers were asked which among the groups of learners had experienced more learning loss. While poverty emerged as the No. 1 factor in the Philippines, the study also reflected the digital divide in society—with 69 percent of teachers also citing internet and technology constraints as another key factor, compared to the global average of 60 percent.
In the local setting, economic status also has a strong correlation with access to connectivity and technology.
“If you have the technology, devices and connectivity, then you have a better chance of learning and moving forward, and that is quite new because the digital side has been developing over the last few years but the pandemic has really shone the light on that,” Michael Fisher, director of T4’s Insight Business, said in a recent Zoom interview with the Inquirer.
Learners whose parents or guardians have been unable to guide them in their lessons outside school also suffered learning loss, according to 56 percent of local teachers.
Based on the study, access to technology in school was lower in the Philippines than global averages. While 76 percent of local schools had access to the internet, the percentage was much lower at 56 percent among public schools compared to the 75 percent global average.
On the part of the educators, 67 percent of local teachers said they had to bring their own devices, compared to 42 percent globally.
Despite the challenges faced by teachers during this pandemic, Fisher said 89 percent of local teachers said the pandemic had turned them into “better” educators as they learned new skills and embraced technology—in line with the global average of 86 percent.
“We saw older teachers, for example, teaching more lessons online, sending content on learning platforms, especially using the more advanced types of learning tools, whereas younger teachers—and this really surprised me—were, for example, the ones more likely to print copies and then distribute them out,” Fisher said.
T4’s survey was conducted in partnership with the University of Cambridge, through the EdTech Hub, which works in collaboration with the World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“This report is distinctive and noteworthy because it shows us the viewpoint from those who have been on the front line delivering education,’’ said Vikas Pota, founder of T4 Education.
Earlier this year, a controversial World Bank research posted on its website suggested that 80 percent of students in the country had fallen below minimum levels of expected proficiency, indicating that learning loss had been a key concern even before the pandemic.
Following protests from the DepEd however, the World Bank removed the report from its website and apologized for publishing it without first getting any feedback from the DepEd.
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