While Senator Win Gatchalian was one of the first to propose a deferment of the supposed August 24 class opening to a later date due to uncertainties brought about by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, he strongly opposes an ‘academic freeze’, warning that it would end up increasing learning losses and inequalities among the country’s learners.
According to Gatchalian, education will continue among well-prepared schools and advantaged learners with the means to continue learning, leaving behind their disadvantaged counterparts. He added that providing all learners the opportunity to continue their education amid the pandemic gives them a fighting chance in terms of education and having a better future.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture also pointed out the examples of other countries, where time out of school led to learning losses that continue to accumulate even after schools reopen.
A working paper from Georgetown University showed that four years after a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan that closed schools for three months, learners who lived closest to the fault line lost an equivalent of 1.5 to two years’ worth of learning. A World Bank memo also projects that in Brazil, the number of 10-year-old children in learning poverty, or those who are unable to read and understand, is projected to increase by 84,000 because of school closures.
Aside from learning loss, the World Bank estimates that five months of school closures would result in up to $10 trillion dollars in lost earnings overtime for affected learners worldwide. Vulnerable and struggling students stand to lose their schooling persistence if schools do not offer support, which would result to higher dropout rates and increased exposure to adverse effects such as child labor.
In countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, India, Mexico, and Tanzania, parental unemployment due to economic shocks result in children stepping in to provide temporary support.
With the country deep in recession for the first time in many years, Gatchalian warned that the patterns observed in those countries could happen among Filipino youth if they are denied of learning opportunities. To date, enrollment data show that more than 4 million learners are already at risk of becoming out of school children and youth.
“Kung susuriin natin ang naging karanasan ng mga bansang dumaan sa matinding krisis, malaking pinsala ang dulot sa kabataan kung hahayaan nating hindi sila mabigyan ng tama at dekalidad na edukasyon. Kaya imbes na tuluyang ipagpaliban ang pagbubukas ng klase, kailangang gamitin ang dagdag na panahon upang masigurong ang darating na pasukan ay magiging ligtas at mabisa para sa ating mga mag-aaral, guro, at mga kawani,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian also urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure all learning materials are prepared before the official opening of classes on October 5. He also emphasized the need to give teachers and non-teaching personnel assurance on their health and safety concerns, citing their crucial role in the successful roll-out of the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP).