School closures to cost Philippines economy P11 trillion in 40 years

Published by rudy Date posted on September 10, 2021

by Louise Maureen Simeon – The Philippine Star, 10 Sep 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The continued closure of schools in the Philippines will not only have long-term scars on students but will also cost the economy some P11 trillion over the next four decades.

During the second part of the Senate committee on finance hearing yesterday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua estimated that losses would hover around P11 trillion over the next 40 years.

“We estimate that productivity loss over the next 40 years is going to be around P11 trillion for the one year where we had no face-to-face schooling. This is over the entire working life span of a person,” Chua said.

“What we are seeing is the lack of face-to-face (classes) will limit the learning ability of students and that has a permanent effect over the lifespan of students while they are in the labor force,” he said.

Such data has already been presented to the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to guide them on the necessary steps in terms of education.

The projected P11-trillion losses trumped the Asian Development Bank’s own estimates of P1.9 trillion economic losses, additional P1.6 trillion in productivity losses, and over P200 billion in foregone revenues.

Chua clarified that their projections were already adjusted based on education quality and inflation pressures over the next 40 years.

Apart from the trillions of economic losses, a student is also losing some 10 percent in terms of permanent wages in the future due to school closure. Worse, the lack of face-to-face learning is just equivalent to 52 percent of actual learning.

Globally, schools were forced to close due to the pandemic last year but many countries have already started reopening them.

Unfortunately, the Philippines, alongside Venezuela, are the only two countries in the world where schools remain shut.

Chua and the rest of the economic team have long been pushing to pilot face-to-face classes to avert further losses. He said the IATF has approved such pilot classes but new COVID waves have derailed its implementation.

“We have presented several times to the IATF and in fact, it was already approved but every time we try to start the pilot, there’s a new surge,” he said.

In February, the government first attempted to reopen schools but new variants came that led to the March lockdown.

The idea was then revived supposedly for the start of the school year sometime in August and September but was eventually put on the backburner due to the more transmissible Delta variant.

“We have the plans already approved but deferred twice because of the surge. We are still keen to pilot face-to-face classes as soon as we can once the surge is over in least risky areas,” Chua said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian maintained he is keen on pushing for piloting face-to-face classes especially as many local government units in the country do not have a lot of COVID cases.

“There are 200 LGUs that have zero COVID (cases), how come they’re part of the blanket policy of school closure? There are island and mountain municipalities that have no cases,” Gatchalian said.

The lawmaker also argued that private schools have the luxury of space and some only have 20 to 25 students per class which would still be ideal given social distancing measures needed.

“This should be allowed instead of putting everyone on the same boat,” Gatchalian said.

“Those with the space should be allowed so a segment of the society can go back to normal with their education through their teachers which is the proper way of doing it,” he said.

Just last month, a World Bank study revealed that Filipino learners still found the distance learning system as ineffective more than a year into the pandemic as the lack of necessary devices remain a major concern.

The lack or limited access to gadgets such as computers, laptops and tablets, was the top concern among learners at 45 percent. This was followed by learning losses at 42 percent.

Some 36 percent also said the lack of guidance from household members is another concern while 34 percent are having difficulties in terms of internet connection.

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