Senator Win Gatchalian has reiterated the urgent need to invest in the implementation of a nationwide program for academic recovery to avert the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including trillions of pesos in productivity losses resulting from the lack of face-to-face classes.
In a Senate panel hearing on Senate Bill No. 150 or the Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Program Act, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education has pointed out the economic consequences of shutting down schools. The ARAL Program is Gatchalian’s proposed national core strategy to allow learners to catch up with the rest of the world despite their learning loss. The proposed program will include well-systematized tutorial sessions and well-designed remediation plans.
Based on estimates by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the lack of face-to-face classes for a year will result in P10.8 trillion in productivity losses over the next 40 years. To implement the ARAL Program, Gatchalian’s initial proposal is to allocate P20 billion. While the amount seems big, Gatchalian emphasized that this amount is only 0.18% of the looming productivity losses.
“Twenty billion pesos is only 0.18% of the potential productivity losses for the next 40 years. So to avert that, P20 billion is actually quite cheap to spend on an academic recovery program. On the other side, if you don’t do anything, we lose P10 trillion right away,” said Gatchalian.
“If we don’t do a massive academic recovery program, we will see a much worse number for our assessments because during pre-pandemic it was already dismal,” Gatchalian added.
The proposed ARAL program targets learners who did not enroll for School Year 2020-2021, those who are lagging academically, and those who are at and marginally above the minimum level of mastery required in Language, Mathematics, and Science. It will cover the most essential learning competencies under Language and Mathematics for Grades 1 to 10, and Science for Grades 3 to 10. For Kindergarten learners, literacy and numeracy competencies will be given focus to build on their foundational competencies.
Based on World Bank estimates, learning poverty in the Philippines is at 90.9% as of June 2022. Learning poverty is defined as the percentage of children aged 10 who cannot read or understand a simple story.