2020: A student treks for nearly an hour up a mountain to access WiFi strong enough to submit their modules.
2015: A photo goes viral of a child completing their homework while using the light of a McDonald’s drive-through.
Two stories, five years apart. In the frothing wake of the pandemic, the Philippine education system has only proved one thing: in this country, quality education can be hard to get. Whilst this article will focus on modern education challenges within the context of the Philippines, these issues are by no means country-specific, but rather speak to the ongoing questions of equity and access that many in the global south are currently tackling.
The Philippines has long had a reputation for not reaching the international standards for education. For example, despite the Philippine government having implemented the K-12 program in an attempt to make local students more internationally competitive and work-ready by Grade 12, Filipino students were still ranked lower than almost all of the participating countries across mathematics, science, and reading comprehension in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey. Furthermore, the realities of the pandemic have increased the burden of school fees that many families already experience given that technology and access to the Internet have increasingly become a necessity of modern education.
Despite these difficulties, there is still a great deal that can be done to improve the country’s education system and maximize the potential of its youth. As an online platform that assists young Filipinos with their education and career prospects, we believe we can move forward by fulfilling two objectives for Philippine education.
Improve technology infrastructure
There is a dire need to make digital education more accessible. Globe and PLDT-Smart, two of the country’s biggest telecom companies, have invested in their networks to improve network experience. These investments contributed to pushing the Philippines’s digital ranking–from 66th to 48th out of 110 countries–in the 2021 Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index. However, whilst the quality may have improved, it remains an issue that internet packages remain incredibly expensive for the majority of the population.
Adequate internet access is also not enough to ensure that young Filipinos are properly prepared for our modern economy. Access to technology is a basic right that many students are deprived of, leaving them unable to gain fundamental digital skills and competencies. In a recent report by The Philippine Star, it was stated that around 40 percent of Filipino students do not have the devices they need to participate in mainstream learning.
These are clear examples that demonstrate the need for better public/private partnerships that can work to provide not only much-needed access to technology, but also deliver them in a way that is equitable.
Providing sufficient training and support for teachers
During this pandemic, distance learning has been challenging for teachers to continue providing quality education to their students.
Through an online survey published by the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, it was found that only 33 percent of Filipino teachers who responded had experiences with teaching online classes prior to the pandemic. Moreover, teachers also found it difficult to motivate students and evaluate their knowledge of the lessons taught. Apart from the provision of tools and programs that would help them deal with online learning, the survey also found that teachers need more financial and emotional support. Monetary assistance from schools could help teachers buy the devices they need, while emotional support could aid teachers in coping with stressors that come with handling online classes.
Interacting with students through a screen is different from doing so in a physical setup. As we continue to embrace the new normal, we must ensure that our teachers have the necessary skills, support, and resources to prepare for a hybrid setup and facilitate effective learning experiences.
Towards a better education system
These recommendations are not mere suggestions. At Edukasyon.ph, we want to give Filipino youth the resources they need to pursue their education and career aspirations. We continue to make products and organize events around academic support, soft skills training, and career advice because we believe the Filipino youth deserve better. Should we be able to slowly implement better technological infrastructure and give both students and teachers the support they need, no one would have to climb a mountain to attend online classes or submit their homework. With accessible and quality education, teachers can feel confident in teaching online classes and students can continue learning.