Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) – January 15, 2021 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A comprehensive set of reforms must be implemented to address a learning crisis in the country, according to advocacy group Philippine Business for Education (PBEd).

“Our students, as reported by three international learning assessments, are ranked among the lowest in the world in terms of science, mathematics and reading competency. Filipino students also scored low in skills needed to thrive in the 21st Century,” the group said yesterday.

“Compounding matters are issues of malnutrition and stunting, protracted school closures and distance learning, poor teacher quality and unequal access to learning materials that are all happening in the context of an economic recession and resource constraints brought about by the pandemic,” it added.

PBEd chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr. said a strong, multi-sectoral coalition is needed to push for education reforms and ensure that quality education becomes a top priority in the national development agenda.

“We need to look at the education crisis from different perspectives. We need to see the bigger picture and implement reforms in crucial areas that determine the quality of education that we provide to our students,” he said.

“We are now sounding the alarm. The Philippine government must take the lead in drawing up and implementing plans for an education system that Filipino learners deserve,” he added.

The group outlined five urgent recommendations to reform the education system in the country, including addressing stunting and malnutrition among school children through the implementation of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition, providing higher budget for education and establishing an autonomous assessment agency.

It also recommended the creation of a National Teacher Education Scholarship program and a stronger implementation of mother tongue-based multilingual education.

PBEd also emphasized the need to reconstitute an Education Commission (EdCom) to set the vision for Philippine education and address long-term problems.

The EdCom, it said, should be “a multisectoral body with representation from the legislature, private sector, civil society, parents’ association, the youth, school teachers and school leaders, and it should be supported by a competent and objective secretariat.”

“While this crisis warrants solutions, whose benefits will take years to realize, we believe that stemming the crisis requires that certain key measures be initiated at the earliest time possible,” said PBEd.

“We call on all Filipinos to take this learning crisis seriously and demand that all leaders make education their number one priority, for our present and future depend on a learned nation,” it added.

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