WB apologizes for PH education report; ADBI echoes findings
Acquiescing to the demand of two senior members of President Duterte’s Cabinet, the World Bank (WB) has publicly apologized for the publication of its report highlighting the sorry state of Philippine education.
But the Washington-based multilateral lender did not retract its findings that indicated “a crisis in education” and that are based on the latest global assessments in which the Philippines took part before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, a report of the Tokyo-based think tank Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) also lamented the “low” amount of learning—especially in mathematics when taught in local dialects—in the Philippines, despite gains from the K-12 basic education program since 2012, which narrowed the reading skills gap between students in rich and poor households.
ADBI said that “considering the Philippines’ status as a low-middle-income country, improving the quality of the education system must remain a matter of national priority.”
In a statement issued Thursday night, the World Bank’s Philippine office said: “We deeply regret that the report on education was inadvertently published earlier than scheduled and before the Department of Education (DepEd) had enough chance to provide inputs. This was an oversight on our part, and we conveyed our personal apologies in our communication with the government.”
The now-controversial report titled “Improving student learning outcomes and well-being in the Philippines: What are international assessments telling us?” was published on June 21.According to the report, “public disclosure was authorized” before it was posted on the World Bank website. It said Filipino students’ low scores in recent global math and science assessment examinations reflected a “poor school climate” in which students had difficulty understanding lessons taught in English, further aggravated by campus violence like bullying.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III separately sought a public apology from the World Bank. They described the report as “outdated” and “erroneous” even as it was based on the three latest global assessments: 2018 Program for International Student Assessment, 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics.
Dominguez, who had written World Bank Group president David Malpass to complain that it had not consulted the DepEd before releasing the report, said he was “glad” that his letter “worked.”
But the World Bank did not retract the report’s findings.
“Recognizing the inadvertent release of the report, we have taken steps to temporarily remove it from the website. We are aware of the [DepEd’s] various efforts and programs to address the challenge of education quality. We agree with [it] that the issue of quality has a long historical context, and support its demonstrated commitment to resolve it decisively,” the World Bank said.
“We have reached out to Secretary Briones on this matter and look forward to continuing our dialogue with the [DepEd] on the opportunities and challenges in the education sector,” it said.
ADBI cited the same problems in the Philippines’ education sector.
It based its working paper titled “Foundational Mathematics and Reading Skills of Filipino Students Over a Generation” on the results of the Functional Literacy, Education, Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), a national household survey that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) had been conducting nationwide every five years since 1998.
The FLEMMS microdata collected by the PSA in 2003, 2013 and 2019 and that were used by the ADBI paper showed that “the share of students with foundational skills increases between grades, indicating that schooling improves learning,” specifically referring to math and reading skills.
“However, we find that a substantial share of Grade 10 students still do not have foundational mathematics or reading skills. This shows that like many countries, the amount of learning produced for each year of schooling in the Philippines is very low,” ADBI said.
It said the FLEMMS-based math learning profile showed a decline of 5 percentage points in 2019 from 2013 levels. “Among Grade 10 students, 93 percent of students in the 2013 cohort answered the mathematics questions correctly. In 2019, the share was 88 percent,” ADBI noted.
It said the decline “corroborated the TIMSS results.” But “different from TIMSS, … we determined that the decline between 2013 and 2019 was four times as severe compared to the decline between 2003 and 2013,” ADBI said, referring to the math results.
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