"Inadvertence? An oversight? No, sir. "
It is just as well that the World Bank, the Washington D.C. based multilateral financial/lending institution, has taken down a highly misleading if not insulting report on the state of Philippine education from its website. Posted last June 21, the said report entitled "Improving Student Learning Outcomes and Well Being in the Philippines: What Are International Assessments Telling Us?" essentially advised that there was a "crisis in Philippine education which started pre-pandemic but will have been made worse by the pandemic."
Basing its "presentation" on the reported results of a 2019 assessment undertaken under the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) used under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and two other assessment programs which the country joined for the first time in the same year, the bank noted that "poor learning results showed that nearly 80 percent percent of students fell below the minimum levels of proficiency as they do not know what they should know in school.." The bank then advised that only 10 to 20 percent of Grade 4, 5, and 9 students in the Philippines posted scores “at or above minimum proficiency.”
The report then proceeded to conclude that "the results reflected a poor school climate in the Philippines wherein students had difficulty understanding lessons taught in English, which was further aggravated by hunger caused by poverty and campus violence, such as bullying."
Of course, Education Secretary Leonor Briones had every right to protest the bank's "presentation" noting that it was based on öld and unreliable" data culled from records as far back as 2012. In fact, it did not even mention the initiatives taken by the agency in improving basic education such as the multi-lingual approach to education beginning in the early years of learning and not just the traditional English based instruction as well as its having taken steps including taking loans from the bank for teachers' skills upgrading and alternative learning systems.
Secretary Briones should have been less diplomatic in her denunciation of the bank's "presentation." Aside from the fact that it was based on old, unreliable data, she should have blasted the bank for taking liberties with the country's method of instruction and the bank's age-old statements about hunger and poverty. The report failed to mention that our schools have been using multi-lingual instruction methods and materials which have resulted in better appreciation of what the students "ought to know."
The continuing haul of prizes in international math and science contests by our students even from the provinces is just one proof that our students are competitive and even above par in performance. That mention of hunger and campus violence did not have any place at all in that assessment as the bank did not even offer an iota of proof about the correlation of these "causes" with the results. Well, the case of hunger and poverty may be alleged but how can that be a culprit for the most part since the bank itself has been glowing in its assessment of the strides taken by the Philippines in the continuing fight against poverty and hunger. Has the bank produced any new findings about the inroads of "poverty and hunger" in our proficiency problems?
The case of "campus violence, including bullying" is even more off-tangent. There is nothing in the presentation showing a causal relationship between our "proficiency in math and science" scores with what it calls "campus violence." How many such cases have been reported, if any? How many students were affected? How many schools have had to shut down or undertake learning sessions on the sly or intermittently because of such "campus violence? The report did not mention any. It just alleged probably getting bits and pieces of anecdotal experiences from its own sources somewhere.
In fact, Secretary Briones and even Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez who came to the defense of his Cabinet colleague in blasting the World Bank should ask the bank to make its apology even more precise and proper as it only apologized over the inadvertent release of the report. Inadvertence? An oversight? No, sir.
We should not simply give in and waive this insult away after the bank's mea culpa of sorts "for having been released earlier than scheduled and before the Department of Education had enough chance to provide inputs." That apology is a non-apology at all. It was a double insult. The only way the bank can truly make up for this brouhaha it created is to show proof about our students' "poor showing and proficiency" in actual, current numbers and, of course, real numbers as well about the causal relations of "hunger and poverty" and "campus violence" to our so-called dismal performance.