The Department of Education (DepEd) reported Monday that 17,479 public and private schools have been nominated to conduct face-to-face classes.
The report coincided with the release of a recent statement from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that less than 15 percent of Filipino children can read a simple text at age 10, prompting a lawmaker to urge the government to open all schools in the country for limited in-person classes.
The finding in the UNICEF’s latest joint report with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and World Bank “translates to a learning poverty of more than 85 percent,” said Senate Basic Education Committee Chairman Sherwin Gatchalian.
The figure is slightly lower than the 90 percent learning poverty reported by the World Bank last November.
The World Bank defines learning poverty as the inability of a child to “read and understand simple text by age 10.”
Based on the agency’s quick count, 17,054 public and 425 private schools are ready to resume physical classes as of March 28, stopped by the government in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.
DepEd said these schools were either fully compliant with the department’s School Safety Assessment Tool (SSAT) or compliant but with pending local government unit concurrence.
“We are optimistic with this upward trend on the number of schools already implementing classroom-based learning. With support from the Central and Regional Offices, we are keen on reintroducing physical classes to more localities in the country,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said, according to a DepEd press release.
In related developments, three regions reported that more than half of
their respective schools were nominated for return to in-person classes, including CAR (55.9 percent), Region IX (53.1 percent), and Region III (51.9 percent).
In terms of the number of nominated schools, Region III topped the list with 2,686, followed by Region VIII and Region VII with 1,987 and 1,585, respectively.
The department said there were approximately 3.1 million learners who are participating in classroom-based learning nationwide.
DepEd also said at least 13,692 public and private schools were currently holding in-person classes, or 78.3 percent of the nominated schools.
In February, only 6,686 schools nationwide passed the SSAT. Of this number, 6,586 were public schools and 100 were private schools.
With the increasing number of schools holding in-person classes, DepEd is set to release policies related to the progressive expansion of onsite learning, including the updated SSAT.
“The SSAT will ensure that our schools are ready for the changes in managing face to face classes while guiding our field offices in the
provision of logistical and technical assistance needed by schools,”
The Education chief, however, clarified that the SSAT was not the final determinant of participation in the face-to-face classes and is only meant to prepare schools and assess their readiness for their eventual reopening.
The UNICEF report titled “Where Are We on Education Recovery?” also found that the Philippines had the longest pandemic school closure
among 122 countries, at 70 weeks.
Neighboring countries Cambodia and Myanmar also had less than 15 percent of their children capable of reading a simple text at age 10, even though they had shorter periods of school closures, according to the report.
UNICEF said even before the COVID-19 pandemic, “more than half of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries were unable to read or comprehend a simple story.”
“Now, that figure is estimated to be as high as 70 percent. This has been exacerbated by 2 years of COVID-19-related school closures, which have deepened education inequality,” UNICEF said.
“We know that the most vulnerable children are paying the heaviest price, with evidence of disproportionate learning loss among children from disadvantaged backgrounds, children living in rural areas, children with disabilities, and younger students,” it said.
The humanitarian agency said “2 in 5 learners continue to experience significant disruptions to education” up until the end of February.
It cited UNESCO data showing that “while a majority of countries have fully opened schools, 42 countries have opened schools partially and six countries have their schools fully closed.”
UNICEF warned that “in addition to missed learning, school closures deprive children of the benefits to their safety, health, nutrition and overall well being provided by schools.”