How can the Philippines do better to support its future generation amidst Covid-19? - Children of the Mekong

How can the Philippines do better to support its future generation amidst Covid-19?

According to an analysis by UNICEF, an estimated 140 million young minds had their school education disrupted amidst the pandemic. 

Philippino girl

 

Up until August 2022, the Philippines was one of the five countries in the world that had not started in-person classes since the pandemic began, affecting the rights of more than 27 million Filipino students in learning. 

For around eight million students around the globe—who should have been in the first grade, the wait for their first day of in-person learning had been over a year. 

“The first day of school is a landmark moment in a child’s life—setting them off on a life-changing path of personal learning and growth. Most of us can remember countless minor details—what clothes we wore, our teacher’s name, who we sat next to. But for millions of children, that important day has been indefinitely postponed,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “As classes resume in many parts of the world, millions of first graders have been waiting to see the inside of a classroom for over a year. Millions more may not see one at all this school term. For the most vulnerable, their risk of never stepping into a classroom in their lifetime is skyrocketing.  

The Importance of in-person learning

The first grade is certainly crucial as it sets up the building blocks for all future learning, with introductions to reading, writing, and math. It is a period when physical learning helps children gain independence and develop meaningful relationships with teachers and students. In-person learning enables teachers to identify and address learning delays, mental health issues, or other issues that could negatively affect one’s well-being. 

In 2020 alone, schools in the Philippines were closed for more than a year, forcing students to enroll in distance learning modalities. The consequences of school closures such as learning loss, mental distress, missed vaccinations, and heightened risk of drop out, child labour, and child marriage will be severely felt by many children, especially those in critical development stages. 

Children from the Philippines

Girl from the Philippines smiling

While countries worldwide are taking some actions to provide remote learning, at least 29 per cent of primary students are not being reached. In addition to lack of assets for remote learning, children may not be able to participate due to a lack of support, a poor learning environment, pressure to do household chores, or being forced to work, which is relatively common in the Philippines. 

Studies have shown that positive school experiences during this transition period are an indicator of one’s future social, emotional and educational outcomes. Concurrently, children who fall behind in learning during the early years often stay behind for the remaining time they spend in school, and the gap widens over the years.  

Why is this important right now?

Unless mitigation measures are implemented, the World Bank estimates a loss of $10 trillion in earnings over time for this entire generation of students. Existing evidence indicates the cost of addressing learning gaps is lower and more effective when they are tackled earlier, and that investments in education support economic recovery, growth, and prosperity. 

What is being done about it?

 

UNICEF has since urged governments to reopen schools for in-person learning as soon as possible and to provide a comprehensive recovery response for students. It has called for governments to focus on key priorities for recovery in schools, which include remedial learning to help students catch up on lost learning and support for teachers to address learning losses and incorporate digital technology into their teaching. 

A little Filipino girl