Despite moderate improvement, current progress in ensuring quality education by 2030 is insufficient, warns a new study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). It reveals critical areas needing immediate action such as tackling the root causes of widespread learning deficits among students, establishing an open data policy, and revamping teacher training and workload.

Authored by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert and co-authors, the study titled “Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) on Quality Education for All: How Does the Philippines Fare and What Needs to Be Done?” highlights that while nearly universal primary education enrollment and increased participation in secondary education are noteworthy, alarming data paints a worrying picture.

Less than 20 percent of Filipino students reach minimum proficiency in reading and math, placing the country’s basic education in “crisis” with a learning poverty rate of 90 percent. This means that Filipino children, on average, lag significantly behind their regional counterparts in acquiring crucial basic skills relevant to the contemporary world.

“The poor quality of education in the country is a result of the need for financial resources to secure proficient educators, create a conducive learning environment, establish a reliable learning assessment system, and implement innovative learning technologies,” the authors said.

Higher education also reports troubling trends. According to the authors, tertiary education enrollment rate in the Philippines remains among the lowest in Southeast Asia. While policy interventions such as the 2017 Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act are at place, the rate averaged to only 34.8 percent in the past nine years.

Moreover, despite continuous economic growth, job creation has lagged behind. This can be attributed to the declining labor participation rate as many people of working age enrolling in K to 12. Incomplete high school education locks Filipinos into a low-wage future, while even college graduates face an occupational “wedge” – a puzzling shift towards lower-skilled jobs.

The mismatch between education and job markets poses a significant challenge. “It could potentially result in well-educated individuals gravitating towards less productive or low-skilled jobs within the labor market,” the authors warned. “The challenge extends beyond individual choices, pointing toward systemic issues within industries that impact the utilization of highly educated talent,” they added. They call for the development of a real-time labor market information system to equip students and educators with accurate data for informed career choices and curriculum adjustments.

To ultimately realize the country’s commitment to the SDG4’s vision of universal quality education by 2030, the authors urge for targeted interventions. They emphasize the need for a multi-pronged approach that tackles the root causes of learning deficits. This includes prioritizing early childhood development initiatives, addressing socioeconomic disparities, and revitalizing teaching methodologies.

“Transparency is a cornerstone of effective education reform”, the authors stressed. They advocate for an open data policy, a dedicated education statistics calendar, and seamless data exchange within the Department of Education (DepEd) and other government agencies. This empowers stakeholders with vital information, enabling evidence-based policy formulation and improved resource allocation.

Further, recognizing the crucial role of educators, authors propose measures to alleviate teacher workload through streamlined administrative processes and investment in targeted training programs focused on innovative teaching methods and digital literacy skills.  “There is a need to refine literacy measurement to encompass functional and digital literacy, better preparing students for the demands of the 21st century workforce,” authors noted.

Finally, they emphasize the importance of strong partnerships and collaboration between DepEd, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to ensure seamless transitions between education stages and a unified vision for the system.

“It is apparent that the education sector is in a looming crisis, and while it is easy to resort to a blame game, it is important to identify specific issues that need urgent policy attention to yield better results in learning outcomes,” said the authors.

Read the full study here: ### 


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