Nine Out of 10 Filipino Kids Struggle With Reading at Age 10, Says World Bank Report

We have an education crisis.
IMAGE ANDREW REPP / SHUTTERSTOCK

Suffice to say, the Philippines' education sector is going to need a lot of work. The country has one of the highest learning poverty rates in East Asia and Pacific region, as well as of lower-middle income economies, according to a new report by the World Bank.

Learning poverty occurs when children can't read or understand simple texts by age 10.

Nine out of 10 Filipino children struggle with reading simple age-appropriate texts. It is estimated that as much as 91 percent of kids in the Philippines are "are not proficient in reading." The regional average is 34.5 percent.

In the rankings, the countries closest to the Philippines' situation are India and Indonesia, which each scored a learning poverty rate of 53 percent.

The World Bank identified a few reasons for the country's high learning poverty rate. "In the Philippines, five percent of primary school-aged children are not enrolled in schools. These children are excluded from learning in schools," it noted in the report.

The World Bank's data also suggests two things.

“First, the share of out-of-school children is higher for boys (5.1 percent) than for girls (4.8 percent). Second, boys are less likely to achieve minimum proficiency at the end of primary school (91.7 percent) than girls (89.2 percent) in the Philippines."

Even before COVID-19, the Philippines was already scoring pretty low in global learning assessments, including the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Programme for International Student Assessment.

The Philippines' learning crisis was only compounded by the closure of schools. Module-based and study-from-home schemes restrained the children's ability to learn, as well.

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A Worldwide Trend

In June 2022, the World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the United Nations Children’s Fund released a joint report that detailed our current global trend.

It explained that the impact of the pandemic on the worldwide education sector was worse than expected. Regions all over the world should expect to see their learning crisis worsen. The global average is at 70 percent, which is a 13-percent increase from pre-pandemic numbers.

Learning poverty in East Asia and the Pacific has worsened by roughly 45 percent. It was only at 35 percent before the global health crisis.

Proposed Solutions

The World Bank pointed out that the Philippines has been spending less than the regional and income-level average when it comes to public education.

"Primary education expenditure per child of primary education age in the Philippines is $569 (P31,600), which is 83.5 percent below the average for the East Asia and Pacific region, and 29.5 percent below the average for lower-middle income countries."

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, meanwhile, has been pushing for the passage of House Bill No. 203, which would upgrade teachers' salaries, and House Bill No. 1783, which would increase the budget for education to about six percent.

Apart from calling for the return of face-to-face classes, National Economic and Development Authority Chief Arsenio Balisacan also said that the government should look into conducting remedial sessions for children. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, urged institutions to extend students' learning time for better recovery.

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. tapped Vice President Sara Duterte to lead the Department of Education. The new Education Secretary announced a while back that all public and private schools in the the Philippines will be switching to a five-day face-to-face setup beginning November 2. 

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This comes after a two-year-long shutdown that saw the country's learning poverty woes worsen.

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