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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Failure to open schools will have significant impact on future generations, says ADB

Will schools and colleges open soon?

MANILA – While the Philippine government hopes to open the school year by August 23, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said should the vaccine rollout happen as planned, pilot areas may be launched earlier.

This comes at the heels of the report entitled “Inadequate learning, loss of earnings: The staggering cost of school closures in Asia” released today.

The ADB study revealed the possibility of having students bear the long-term costs of the pandemic should different governments opt not to open schools and do remedial actions.

With COVID-19’s emergence as global threat last year, different governments were concerned of the economic consequences of the required lockdown measures. What followed closely was the concerns of the possible impact of school closures, not just because of its toll on parents working from home with their children.

“Parents, educators, and policymakers alike recognized that education plays a vital role in the social development and economic potential of the next generation,” the report said. The same study said if remote learning in all developing Asian economies were as effective as in high-income countries, the total losses in lifetime earnings would be substantially lower at US$0.8 trillion, or 3.6% of the region’s GDP in 2020.

The study revealed four inter-connected programs to mitigate the damage from school closures and build post-pandemic education systems expected to be stronger and more resilient.

The ADB said the first is the government’s resolve to bring COVID-19 under control at the soonest possible time for all students to safely return to in-person instruction. This could be done through the rapid implementation of nationwide vaccination programs supported by evidence-based containment measures which are expected to control the pandemic and make a big different for student in the long time.

What should follow is the properly managed reopening of schools. The reopening can be considered in areas when COVID-19 local transmission rates are significantly low, with other school-specific factors such as safe public and shared transport, adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene resources as well as sufficient space for physical distancing are in place.

The ADB also recommended that the decision to return to in-person instruction ought to be based on cost-benefit analysis and need to prioritize early childhood and primary education, “where developmental gains are high.” They recommended physical distancing by students should be implemented by converting space into larger classrooms, staggered daily schedules, grouping students in protective bubbles, building hygienic facilities, and encouraging behavioral change. These efforts will underscore need to prevent learning loss in case of COVID resurgence or future pandemics.

They also called for the careful management of the school curricula and programs to ensure to catch up on lost learning, by way of remedial lessons. It is worth consideration that even in the same environment, students dealt with the lockdowns differently based of their personal circumstances. School administrators and teachers need to ensure that in-person instruction resumes at an appropriate level for each student utilizing low-cost learning diagnostic tools and student tracking.

In areas where physical re-opening is still not advisable and remote learning must continue, the government and their partners must reduce learning losses by improving the coverage and quality of remote instruction. This will include continuation to strengthen information and communications technology infrastructure, using diverse instruction platforms and supplying devices to ensure access for distance, differently abled, and low-income students, providing digital literacy training for students, parents, and teachers. It also includes adjusting curricula to establish realistic, clear learning goals which focus on core topics until in-person instruction can resume.

Should governments make their investments today, they can minimize the cost of lost learning, ensure education systems develop stronger than previous years and pay dividends long after the global pandemic ends. (Melo M. Acuña)

File photo of a public school in Cagbalete, Mauban, Quezon

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