Berating the messenger
The report said there was a crisis in education in the Philippines even before the start of the pandemic. It listed gaps in the Philippine education system, among which are that the majority of 15-year-olds did not understand fractions, that just a tenth of fifth graders were at par with global standards in English proficiency, that bullying was prevalent across all levels, and that administrators were unaware of the gravity of violence in schools. Briones slammed the World Bank and said the figures used in the report were not updated. “The country was insulted and shamed,” said Briones. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III chastised the agency for “lack of professionalism.” In its apology, the World Bank said the incident was an oversight on its part and that it has temporarily removed the report from its website. “We agree with the Department that the issue of quality has a long historical context, and support its demonstrated commitment to resolve it decisively. We have reached out to Secretary Briones on this matter and look forward to continuing our dialogue with the Department of Education on the opportunities and challenges in the education sector,” it said. But the things that the World Bank pointed out in that report, even if they were prematurely published, are already familiar to us. Late last year, the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics, conducted by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), pointed out that the percentage of Grade 5 Filipino students who achieved minimum proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics was significantly lower than the percentage in Vietnam and Malaysia.