As COVID-19 closes schools, best practices in place according to DEPED, CHED and TESDA

Special Report

Losses in learning and earning unquantifiable in peso or dollar terms

MANILA – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates 28,451,212 learners from the Philippines have been affected by school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bulk of those affected are in the primary schools across the country with some 14,039,867 followed by those in secondary schools with 9,007,148. Learners from tertiary institutions affected by school closures reached 3,589,484. The least of the sectors affected came from the pre-primary with 1,814,713.

Looking closely at the impact of school closure due to the pandemic, the Asian Development Bank came out with a special section in their Asian Development Outlook released last month.

The Asian Development Bank article said schools in the Philippines have remained closed for the last

The monthly Roundtable with Philippine Press Institute sponsored by Hanns Seidel Foundation, featured stakeholders who shared their views on the learning and earning losses as the government has not resumed its face-to-face instructions due to health concerns.

Education Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Diosdado M. San Antonio said they are aware of the issues involved surrounding learning loss after the government opted to keep the schools closed in the interest of public safety and well-being.

“We are trying to open the schools because the longer we keep them closed, the more adverse the effects would be on the lives of our learners,” he said. He added under the instructions of Secretary Leonor M. Briones, they introduced what they call Learning Continuity Plan.

He explained during the previous years, they have noted learning losses during the summer vacation so it would be more difficult for the learners not to attend face-to-face instructions for the past seven months.

As far as the Commission on Higher Education represented by Acting Executive Director Atty. Lily Freida C. Macabangun-Milla and Director Mary Sylvette T. Guinigundo of the Planning, Research and Knowledge Management, they still have to see how effective flexible learning programs are because college students may not have enough gadgets and access to the internet.

“Most of them are using their mobile phones but not all of have access to both gadgets and internet. We are left with no alternative by to introduce modular learning type,” Dr. Gunigundo said.

Although they have begun opening colleges and universities offering face-to-face instructions for medical and allied health courses, they are closely observing if this would be beneficial for both the students and the faculty.

“Should the program yield positive results and there would be lesser COVID-19 transmission, we may opt to open other courses such as Engineering, Architecture and Technology,” Dr. Gunigundo added.

TESDA’s Planning Office Director Rosalina Constantino said since the community quarantine began, their online training programs attracted more learners.

“We introduced 101 online courses since its establishment way back in 2012 but noticed we now have 2.5 million registered users. During the onset of the quarantine period last year, 1.5 million trainees registered,” she said.

She said there are private institutions offering Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) which closed due to the pandemic. TESDA began introducing flexible learning delivery which is similar to the program introduced by the Department of Education.

“We partnered with Amazon and Udemi for more online courses to help everyone interested in acquiring additional skills,” she explained.

Labor and Employment Asst. Secretary Dominique Rubia Tutay said the labor market has improved compared to the previous year.

“According to the Labor Force Survey, unemployed persons according by educational attainment from 2020, there were fewer entrants into the labor force probably due to the lockdown,” Asst. Secretary Rubia-Tutay said.

She explained if one’s to go with statistics, the country’s unemployed youth has gone up particularly among senior high school students.

“In 2019, we had 107,000 unemployed senior high school and in 2020, we had 231,900 unemployed and as of the latest Labor Force Survey last March this year, the number rose to 325,000 which is a big component,” Ms. Rubia-Tutay added.

The Labor official said most of senior high school graduates who land jobs are into administrative support and clerical work.

“The challenge is how to provide digital skills to all types of job seekers because it is a requirement under the new normal. Digital skills apart from resilience and adoptability are required under the new normal,” she added.

Meanwhile, Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) Governor Anton Sayo said most employers would rather hire college degree holders than senior high school graduates.

“If a survey would be made on employers, there’s this tendency to gravitate towards college graduates because the time spent in training them is considerably shorter than if you would take in a TVET graduate,” he said.

He explained those from the informal sector are most affected because they used to be the most resilient of all, and the competencies they have are best seen in livelihood opportunities.

“What needs to be done is to usher the informal sector to the formal sector because when they do, they get the necessary social protection and opportunities for skills development where both the public and private sectors can work together, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises,” Governor Sayo explained.

At the Labor front, Atty. Sonny Matula, chairman of the NAGKAISA Coalition said during the first quarter of 2020, workers from the Education sector took the brunt of job losses as schools closed due to the lockdown forced upon by COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are workers in the Education sector who still are under the no work-no pay arrangements. However, there are those to have returned to work when the schools started online instructions,” Atty. Matula said.

Undersecretary San Antonio said they do not expect distance or home-based learning will be the ideal as the blended learning we proposed where possible face-to-face meetings may take place.
“We are doing the necessary adjustments,” Dr. San Antonio added. He said the examination results during the First Quarter was encouraging as it indicated learners were able to absorb the inputs provided them.
He acknowledged teachers who, even without specific orders from their superiors have gone out to personally check on their students and they assist families struggling to help aspiring students accomplish their tasks.
TESDA Planning Director Constantino said they have partnered with private companies to offer courses that are required by the industry. She said this will guarantee their successful trainees would be employed right after their courses.
Governor Sayo said they are on the lookout for applicants who have basic communication skills because individuals who can communicate well would mean they are highly trainable.
However, Governor Sayo said they have partnered with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to address basic health issues as there are individuals who refuse to acknowledge their illnesses for fear of losing their work. He added there is a significant number of workers with pulmonary tuberculosis.
Asked how the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) would address the lack of practicum for courses that require internship. Atty. Milla said the Technical Panel for Education have begun discussions with stakeholders to find a solution to the prevail situation.
“We are now coordinating with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) which looks for the number of practicum hours.
Asst. Secretary Rubia-Tutay said it would be difficult to quantify the learning and earning losses of the country’s youth due to the continued closer of both government and private schools because one has to take the learner’s well-being amidst the pandemic and the tight restrictions on movement of minors, most of who are of school age.
Learning losses can be assess in terms of learning-adjusted years of schooling (LAYS), according to the Asian Development Bank article. It said the instrument can capture both the quantity and quality of education.
The impact of the school closure which has lasted for over 200 days, will be seen in the coming Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which may be implemented when things get better with the expected vaccine rollout. (Melo M. Acuña)