WB, Neda push full opening of classes to address worsening learning poverty | Inquirer Business

WB, Neda push full opening of classes to address worsening learning poverty

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 07:44 PM January 25, 2022

WB, Neda push full opening of classes to address worsening learning poverty

MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank has urged fully opening schools while reducing COVID-19 transmission in academic institutions to address learning poverty aggravated by the prolonged pandemic in low- and middle-income countries like the Philippines.

In a text message on Tuesday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said the full opening of schools would be doable in the Philippines.


“The sooner we can pilot more [face-to-face classes], then the sooner we can open more and all schools,” said Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).


Before 2021 ended, the Department of Education (DepEd) piloted in-person classes in areas with relatively low infections. However, the surge in COVID-19 cases wrought by the Omicron strain which greeted 2022 forced schools to close down again. With many getting sick, teachers and students alike had also sought “health breaks” from their academic burden.

But a World Bank report titled “Prioritizing Learning During COVID-19: The Most Effective Ways to Keep Children Learning During and Post-Pandemic” warned that “without large-scale, effective, and swift government action, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on education will be catastrophic for children in low-income and middle-income countries.”

The Inquirer last year reported World Bank estimates showing that learning poverty the share of 10-year-olds who cannot read nor understand a simple story in the Philippines hit a high of 90 percent as school children struggled with online and remote classes.

Before COVID-19 struck in 2019, learning poverty in the country was already high, at 69.5 percent.

READ: WB: 9 out of 10 PH kids age 10 can’t read

Chua had said that Neda’s estimates showed a school year when students were unable to attend face-to-face classes would inflict P11 trillion in productivity losses across a 40-year period of a person’s working life span.


In the new report, the World Bank recommended to “prioritize keeping schools and pre-schools fully open,” even as the Washington-based lender noted that “at the end of 2021, some school systems are still fully closed, and many are only partially open, while the spread of the Omicron variant threatens further restrictions.”

“As governments make tough decisions about what activity to restrict in the face of new variants, the evidence suggests education must be prioritized: general economic activity has often recovered rapidly as lockdowns ease, but school closures have caused large and persistent damage to children’s education and future productivity which is hard to address,” the World Bank said.

“While school closures hurt all students, the costs are highest for already disadvantaged groups including poor students while adolescent girls face particular challenges. School closures also harm children by negatively affecting their mental health and in many countries their nutrition, again disproportionately affecting disadvantaged groups. Preventing these costs to children motivates keeping schools fully open,” it added.

Also, the World Bank pointed to “accumulating evidence that children, especially younger children, are very unlikely to get severely ill from COVID-19, and teachers have low risk of catching COVID-19 from their students if mitigating action is taken.”

“Even in the case of new outbreaks, schools should be the last institution to close and the first to reopen, given the relatively low risk of transmission and the high cost to youth,” it said.

READ: WB: Remote learning jacked up learning poverty in PH to 90% in 2021

The World Bank said even low-income countries can sharply reduce virus transmission risks, which “will never be zero, so teachers must be prioritized for vaccination.”

“There is strong evidence that masks reduce community transmission and that surgical masks are substantially more effective than cloth masks. Ventilation — including simply opening lots of windows — provides protection. While handwashing is important, transmission through the air is dominant, hence the use of ventilation and masks must be prioritized,” the World Bank said.

As school children lost substantial learning time amid the prolonged pandemic, the World Bank also urged to “adjust instruction to reflect the new reality and focus on important foundational skills.”

“Failure to recognize and respond to learning loss is one of the reasons previous temporary school closures led to permanent damage. Governments should start by understanding where students are: how much has learning, enrolment, and attendance fallen? They must then design a response that allows teachers to teach to the actual learning level of the child, not where we hope they are. This could include catch-up programs focused on foundational skills, use of adaptive software for schools that have computers, additional instruction time, and remedial tutors,” the report read.

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Finally, the World Bank said key to addressing learning poverty included putting in place “adequate support to help children learn,” specifically by “providing teachers with simple teaching guides combined with strong monitoring and feedback systems [that] can help them structure their pedagogical approach and ensure that children learn effectively.”

“Additional tutoring can also help children catch-up,” according to the World Bank.

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TAGS: COVID-19, economy, Education, NEDA, Poverty, World Bank

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