It is an established fact that an organization is only as good as its people, that its greatest asset is its human capital. Accordingly, a nation’s greatest asset, its main engine for peace, development and prosperity, is its people.
The quality of the human capital of an organization or nation is dependent on the education, training, native intelligence, inherent competencies and skills, health, and values of its people. Thus, it is extremely alarming that the World Bank report on Learning Poverty show that nine out of 10 Filipino children have difficulty reading and understanding a simple text by age 10. This is 90 percent of 10-year-old Filipinos. This is more than double the regional average of 34.5 percent.
It will be very hard to see how we can truly progress as a nation if we are unable to correct this. We want to strengthen our students’ knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. How can we do this if our 10-year-old students have problems in reading and understanding a simple text?
There have been several factors that have caused this extremely high learning poverty rate.
First, the World Bank report says that five percent of primary school-aged children are not enrolled in schools. Second, we face the reality that a good number of Filipino children are malnourished or undernourished which, needless to say, greatly affect their learning. Third, we have the usual problems in the learning environment — lack of classrooms and learning materials, quality of instruction, among other things. Fourth, is the effect of the pandemic on education — the closing of schools, the difficulty of many in getting quality education through online learning, also among others.
Today, in the new normal, we are faced with the added challenge of doing things differently. The pandemic has changed the world, and education will have to adopt to these changes.
The situation is truly alarming and I consider this not merely an education problem, but a national security concern. We must focus and invest in education, quality education.
Though we now have free education from kindergarten to college, and several support programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the National Feeding Program for Undernourished Children in Public Day Care, Kindergarten and elementary Schools, among others, it is obvious that the educational system needs more funding.
For quality education, the primary thing to strengthen is the academic infrastructure of our entire educational system — basic, tertiary and vocational education. The curricula must not only be attuned to the times but geared for the future. Ideally, we should be ahead of the curve.
Learning materials must be sufficient in content and provided to all. Most importantly, we need to have good teachers who will not only impart the required learning to the students, but serve as role models for them. Given the changes brought about by information technology, the fast-changing environment, and the new normal, we will also need to upgrade skills and/or reskill our teachers.
The physical infrastructure of classrooms, equipment and other school facilities must be ensured.
Finally, the administrative and financial infrastructure that provides support to learning operations must be strengthened.
Investing in quality education is the key that will provide the human capital for a peaceful and prosperous nation.
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