MANILA – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has offered strategies to tackle poverty and learning losses as millions of Filipino students return to school on Monday, the start of a new school year which will push for the return of in-person classes at full capacity.
“As we welcome children back to the classrooms today, let us remember that this is the first of many steps on our journey of restoring learning,” said Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, representative of the UNICEF in the Philippines, in a press release.
The UN agency urged education actors in the Philippines to adopt the RAPID Learning Recovery Framework, which includes the following strategies:
- Reaching every child and keeping them in school
- Assess learning levels
- Prioritize teaching the fundamentals
- Increase catch-up learning and progress beyond what has been lost
- Develop psychosocial health and well-being so that every child is ready to learn
The first strategy, “Reaching Every Child,” refers to the safe reopening of schools, which can be encouraged by launching back-to-school campaigns and providing cash transfers to poor families, according to UNICEF.
Under “Assess levels of learning”, stakeholders are encouraged to assess learning losses – or the loss of knowledge and skills that students experience when they are out of school – at national and sub-national levels. It also involves providing tools to teachers that will facilitate assessment.
In “Prioritizing Teaching Foundations,” stakeholders must adjust the curriculum, prioritizing numeracy, literacy and social-emotional skills, UNICEF said.
UNICEF added that educators must “focus teaching on closing the gaps between desired and actual student learning in specific subject areas.”
Under “Increase Remedial Learning,” practitioners should use a variety of approaches in delivering learning, such as targeted instruction, tutoring, and self-guided learning.
UNICEF said instruction time should be extended while learning with technology should be improved.
Stakeholders should also continuously support teachers by developing “practical pedagogical and digital skills”, the UN agency added.
In the last strategy, “Developing psychosocial health and well-being”, teachers must be trained to support the well-being of their students and identify their needs for “special services”.
Stakeholders must also support the well-being and resilience of teachers, and invest in student safety, nutrition and access to water and hygiene facilities, UNICEF said.
The DepEd Plan
At a press conference on August 10, Department of Education spokesman Michael Poa said the agency’s plan to tackle learning loss is anchored on four aspects within the framework of the Basic Education Development Plan 2030: access, equity, quality and resilience.
“What is included in access is also the infrastructure that provides access to education such as classrooms and facilities,” Poa explained.
Equity, on the other hand, means providing schools with adequate funding.
Quality refers to improved learning materials and teacher development, while resilience refers to DepEd’s responses to calamities, Poa said.
According to a recent World Bank report, the learning poverty rate in the Philippines has reached 91%, which means that 9 out of 10 Filipino children still struggle to read simple texts at the age of 10.
A previous joint report by UNICEF, the World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated learning poverty and “increased educational inequalities”.
The Philippine government banned face-to-face classes in early 2020 due to the health crisis but has gradually allowed its resumption, albeit on a limited capacity, since November 2021.
Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte has ordered all schools to roll out in-person classes at full capacity by November.
As of Friday, Poa said 46% of schools nationwide would implement full in-person classes on Monday, while 51.8% would continue blended learning.
Only about 1.29% of schools will still implement full distance learning, Poa said.
As of Saturday morning, more than 27.6 million students were enrolled for the 2022-2023 school year, according to DepEd data.