KCFI’s Lopez: Let’s prioritize early years“The learning crisis is real and it is here today. We must act together. We must act fast and we must act now.”
These were the closing words of Rina Lopez, president and executive director of Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc. (KCFI), during an online forum organized by the National Teachers College and Philippine Business for Education on June 1.
Titled “Tackling the Philippine Learning Crisis Together,” the two-hour event also featured insights from former Department of Education (DepEd) Sec. Br. Armin Luistro and current director Jocelyn Andaya.
The virtual discussion aimed to shed light on the learning crisis gripping the country.
According to Luistro, children are faced with various challenges: “SEA-PLM [Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics] noted that 65% of learners are bullied. Even when I was in DepEd, this is one of the figures that we were monitoring, and that is why there was this zero-bullying law, but also a lot of programs run by the schools. But it is a growing concern. Obviously in the pandemic, that has also shifted to cyberbullying.”
Luistro stressed that “even among private schools, one growing concern for us in the Philippines is really mental health.“We had an internal study in one of our schools and [of ] around 5,000-plus students, 3,600 or 70% of our students said that they experience mental health difficulties.”
Meanwhile, Andaya emphasized: “As countries continue to navigate the pandemic, governments and societies need to take stock of progress achieved in prevailing gaps in distance education delivery. This reflection will act as a building block, not only for a more informed short-term response in a context of disruption, but also towards a richer, more flexible type of education delivery, able to cater to different students’ needs over the mid- and longer term.”
Focus on critical years
Lopez focused her talk on early childhood development and primary grades learning, sectors that she emphasized lack the support they truly need.
“Kids aged 0 to 8, these are the critical years of their brain development, and the time when they are learning fundamental skills in reading and numeracy. Yet, in the education sector, this is an underserved group, highly affecting and affected by the learning crisis.”
She added: “If early in their lives we can make a huge difference, imagine the impact it will make later on, not only for them and their families, but also for us and for our country. In the whole education continuum, it is not just DepEd, CHED [Commission on Higher Education] and TESDA [Technical Education and Skills Development Authority], but we need to include early childhood care and development—the ECCD [Early Childhood Care and Development] Council, CWC [Council for the Welfare of Children] and all, because learning starts on day one of a child, and even before that.”
The KCFI chief left the audience with three key action points in solving the learning crisis:
1. Wholistic efforts in early childhood development are critical. Addressing nutrition, health, social protection, and the early learning of children 0-8 years old is essential to the development of a whole child and to the sustainability of our country.
2. Building the capacity of our childhood care providers and our teachers, especially those who care for the 0-8-year olds, is essential. Training and mentorship are very important as well as opening opportunities for them to continue learning in their field.
3. Utilizing and maximizing technology especially in the use of videos as a way to continue learning. Technology helps make learning more flexible, allowing learners to adapt and personalize their learning no matter the situation. (Story/Photos by: Michael Ramos)