Save the Children Philippines supports the mandate on the formal reopening of schools for School Year 2022-2023, provided that the safety of face-to-face classes is strictly ensured for children and adults, the protection of their mental health and well-being are prioritized, and education systems are further strengthened.
The Philippines is among the last countries to reopen schools since the start of the pandemic. After two and a half years, the impact of the pandemic-induced school closure in the country has become more evident than ever.
The Asian Development Bank reported that students in Developing Asia, including the Philippines, lost over half a year of effective learning on average. Meanwhile, a recent World Bank report revealed that more than 90 percent of Filipino children struggle with reading and understanding simple texts at age 10. This problem is even compounded by the significant number of out-of-school children which is now close to half a million.
Save the Children is committed to helping address this education crisis. We call on the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Health (DOH), national government agencies, and all local government units (LGUs), including the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), and all sectors of society to work together and ensure the following:
Health and Safety
- Strictly implement health and safety protocols, ensuring that schools have adequate ventilation, safe spaces, and proper water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities. Students, teachers, and non-teaching personnel should have access to regular testing and vaccination, as applicable.
- Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) must be fully integrated into educational responses. Increased MHPSS provisions for teachers, children, and their families should be considered to help protect their wellbeing and economic security. Teachers must also be capacitated in identifying children experiencing violence and/or neglect, and in supporting children’s recovery. Children can also be enrolled in early childhood care and development (ECCD) to help prepare them for formal school.
Strengthen education systems and access to quality and inclusive education
- Schools should be able to address educational inequalities and be able to support the specific needs of children most impacted by inequality and discrimination. There should also be referral mechanisms and contingency plans for reclosure and reopening of classes, as well as alternative/ flexible learning options, as necessary. Teachers should also be trained in the assessment of learners’ level of learning to inform remedial efforts and provide age-appropriate learning support. Investment in the digital literacy of teachers and students is also critical so they can competently adapt to the ever-changing demands of the global education landscape.
It is imperative, that we all take collective steps to improve the overall quality of education, make up for lost learning, and support disadvantaged students as the school year starts. This includes investing in data and research and implementing: 1) concrete catch-up programs and remedial education, especially in marginalized communities; 2) proactive approaches to reintegrate out-of-school children; 3) accommodation for children with disabilities; and 4) improving teachers’ professional development.
All these initiatives must ensure that the adverse effects of the pandemic do not cross over to the next generation.
Their conviction is clear: Learning must no longer be disrupted.
Save the Children Philippines will continue to work with the DepEd, MBHTE, teachers and the academe, the private sector, and other stakeholders, including parents and children themselves, in improving the competencies and learning outcomes of students, and ensuring that dropouts, and learning gaps and inequality will be addressed.
Every Filipino child, regardless of who, what, and where they are, or whatever their circumstances may be, deserves the right to learn at all times.
We can give them the future they deserve if we work hand in hand to get our children safely back to school.
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