By Kaithreen Cruz, 5 Nov 2021, Manila Times
THE Philippines was given a five-star rating by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on its Remote Learning Readiness Index (RLRI).
The index is a new composite indicator that measures the readiness of a country to deliver remote learning in response to school closures or disruption of in-person learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It took into account households, government’s policy response capacity and emergency preparedness of the national education sector to implement remote learning among 67 countries.
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Unicef clarified that it was only able to produce a final rank for countries with available data on all three domains indicated earlier.
For households, it measured the share of schoolchildren with home access to resources — radio, television, computer, internet, mobile phone — and those whose mothers completed at least upper secondary education.
For policy response capacity, it looked at the provision, through the ministry of education policies, of remote learning opportunities via radio, TV and online platforms, as well as the training for teachers to use remote learning tools.
For system-level emergency preparedness, it delved into the risk assessment implemented by the education sector, the risk reduction measures in place, and the availability of human and financial resources for implementing risk reduction and assessment strategies.
Addressing challenges in remote learning
Alongside Argentina, Barbados and Jamaica, the Philippines had “efficient policy responses supported by high emergency preparedness and existence of household factors that support remote learning,” Unicef said.
Nearly half of the countries rated have below-average remote learning readiness with only one to two stars.
“More than 200 million schoolchildren live in 31 countries that are unprepared to deploy remote learning during emergency school closures. Among those 200 million schoolchildren, more than a half —102 million—had limited access to in-person learning since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Unicef in its report.
It noted that pre-primary education was the least prepared sector across all education levels, with the youngest children from 33 countries at risk of being unprepared for primary or elementary education.
Distance learning struggle continues
The Department of Education (DepEd) welcomed the recognition from Unicef.
It credited stakeholders — teachers, parents, partners and learners — for the realization of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) that ensured students continue their education during the pandemic through modular learning, online learning, TV- and radio-based instruction, or blended learning modalities.
“Through our united efforts, we managed to support the education of more than 27 million learners while prioritizing their health and safety amidst the pandemic,” DepEd said in a statement.
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Unicef noted that countries receiving a five-star rating on the RLRI must also ensure that students achieve the expected learning outcomes amid the implementation of remote learning modalities.
“After initial access to a remote learning program is achieved, children need to continuously use the program, and learn and acquire necessary knowledge and skills. Improving the coverage of a country’s remote learning program is a priority but challenges exist beyond the initial RLRI assessment,” Unicef said.
DepEd said it will take note of the recommendations of the study to improve the curriculum and address learning gaps. It said that it will continue developing strategies to solve familiar issues also encountered by other countries.
1-Ang Edukasyon party-list, a group of teachers, students, parents, school personnel, out-of-school youth, concerned citizens and other education stakeholders, slammed the ratings given by Unicef to the Philippines, saying the report was overly-dependent on the government’s “rosy depiction” of the state of education nationwide.
“Unicef, your five-star rating of the Philippines on remote learning is a ridiculous joke and a mockery of the suffering millions of students and their families endured in DepEd and CHEd (Commission on Higher Education)’s remote learning inadequacies and mishaps,” it said.
The party-list asked Unicef to listen to the teachers, students and parents who have suffered from the challenges posed by distance learning, with the lack of necessary resources and equipment to implement it.