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WB takes down controversial PH education report from website

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 06:21 PM July 08, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Pressure built up on Thursday (July 8) for World Bank to publicly apologize for its synthesis report on the three latest global assessments which showed the Philippine educational system lagging behind with President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief economic manager backing up Education Secretary Leonor Briones’ call.

By Thursday afternoon, the World Bank report, titled “Improving student learning outcomes and wellbeing in the Philippines: What are international assessments telling us?” which the Washington-based multilateral lender published on June 21, was already taken down from its website. The accompanying presentation for the report was also gone, after the Department of Finance (DOF) on Thursday morning issued a statement demanding the report’s removal from the WB website.

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The World Bank report noted that Filipino students’ low scores in recent global mathematics and science assessment exams reflected a “poor school climate” in the Philippines where students had difficulty understanding lessons taught in English, and further aggravated by campus violence like bullying.

“There is a crisis in education—which started pre-COVID-19, but will have been made worse by COVID-19,” the World Bank said in the report.

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Among the World Bank’s key findings was that “more than 80 percent of children do not know what they should know” in school. This meant that majority of Filipino students had been unable to meet the minimum proficiency or learning standard expected from their grade level.

The report stayed on the World Bank website until Thursday morning, even as Briones last Monday (July 5) complained that it supposedly “insulted and shamed” the Philippines.

The DOF on Thursday said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III had written WB Group president David Malpass to complain that the Washington-based lender’s “lack of professionalism” in failing to heed “standard procedure” of consulting Philippine education officials about the report before its publication.

The DOF negotiates with lenders like WB on behalf of government agencies which will implement foreign-funded programs and projects. In the WB’s near-term lending pipeline for the Philippines were 13 upcoming loans worth a total of $2.98 billion, including two for the DepEd.

Also, the DOF said Dominguez told Malpass that the report published in June “does not reflect current realities” as well as “has the effect of misleading the public and causing undue reputational risk to the Philippine education sector.”

“Such a report should be taken out so as not to further mislead the public,” said Dominguez’s letter. “We also believe that a public apology to the DepEd and the national government is in order,” it said.

Like Briones, Dominguez claimed the report was “outdated” and “erroneous” even as these were based on the three latest global assessments where the Philippines participated:

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  • 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
  • 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
  • 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM)

No new assessment were conducted since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in 2020.

Dominguez said the report “may be wrongfully used to tarnish the image of the DepEd and the entire national government.”

The finance chief also said “the report’s outdated findings have already been addressed by the DepEd and the Philippines’ development partners, the World Bank included, through various amelioration programs since 2019.”

Dominguez said WB was expected “to observe responsible reporting and adhere to the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct.” He added that “as a valued partner, the bank should serve and protect the development interests of the Philippines and other World Bank members.”

Before the now controversial WB report was made public, the lender early this year added two loans for DepEd in its Philippine pipeline.

DepEd was seeking $110-million World Bank financing for its $120-million teacher effectiveness and competencies enhancement project, which WB said was aimed at improving the “quality of and equitable access to teaching in Kindergarten to Grade 6 in project-supported regions.”

DepEd also sought $100 million for its $135-million strengthening alternative learning system for all, which will “improve student outcomes in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) programs,” WB said.

In an earlier report last May, WB said the current distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic had “limited effectiveness” and possibly jacked up learning poverty or the share of 10-year-olds who cannot read or understand a simple story in 2020. In 2019, the pre-pandemic learning poverty in the Philippines was already a high of 69.5 percent.

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