education in the Philippines

DepEd head demands apology from World Bank for PH poor education ranking

Bonz Magsambol

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DepEd head demands apology from World Bank for PH poor education ranking

File photo of Education Secretary Leonor Briones


(2nd UPDATE) Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque says that Malacañang also 'supports' Briones’ call

Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Monday, July 5, demanded a public apology from the World Bank following its report on poor learning results among Filipino students.

In a press conference, Briones said the World Bank did not follow protocol when releasing the report, as it had not informed the Department of Education beforehand that it would do so.

“Ang World Bank na nagpalabas ng datos, ito ay hindi sumunod sa protocol. Kasi kung mag-report ka on a country kailangan malaman ng country na iyon kung anong sasabihin…. Walang sabi-sabi; inuna sa media,” she said.

(The World Bank released the data without following protocol. If you release a report on a country, the country should know first about what you’re reporting on. There was no heads up; they released it to the media right away.)

DepEd head demands apology from World Bank for PH poor education ranking

Briones said the World Bank, which according to her is a partner in improving the country’s education system, based its report on “outdated” global assessments.

The report, released last week, detailed the country’s poor state of education based on three different multicountry assessments: the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM).

The World Bank said that based on the three assessments, poor learning results were observed among students in the Philippines, with more than 80% falling below the minimum levels of proficiency expected of them.

Asked by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque if the World Bank’s intention was to secure more loans from the Philippines, Briones said: “Apology muna. Pinadalahan ako ng sulat, personal apology, pero hindi naman ako ang natatamaan dito, ang bansa.”

(We want an apology first. They sent a letter to me containing a personal apology, but I am not the one who’s being offended here. It’s the country.)

Briones said that the Philippines has secured at least $300-million worth of loans from the World Bank since the 1980s to improve the state of education in the country.

“The country was insulted and shamed. We expect and look forward to a public apology, lalo na at naglabas sila ng lumang lumang datos (especially since they released very old data),” she reiterated.

Malacañang, DOF support call

In his press briefing on Thursday, July 8, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that Malacañang also “supports” Briones’ call for an apology.

This was echoed by a statement the Department of Finance (DOF) released the same day. The DOF also asked the World Bank to take the findings down from its website. 

In his letter to the World Bank, DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that the report “does not reflect current realities” and “has the effect of misleading the public and causing undue reputational risk to the Philippine education sector.”

“The failure of Bank officials to follow the protocol of consulting with the DepEd prior to publication further illustrates the lack of professionalism which we come to expect from the World Bank and its staff. Such a Report should be taken out from the Bank’s website so as not to further mislead the public,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez added that the World Bank report “failed to recognize the historical context of the Philippine education sector and how it has evolved, which the institution should have taken into account as it has been a ‘valuable partner of the NG (national government) for almost 75 years.'”

Distance learning struggles

Due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, schools in the country have shifted to distance learning – a mix of online classes and printed learning modules – following President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to suspend face-to-face classes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

Under the distance learning system, parents have an active role in guiding their children through modular lessons – which posed a problem for students who do not have anyone to facilitate learning at home, or whose parents are not capable of guiding them due to lack of knowledge. (READ: Parents bear the brunt of distance learning as classes shift online)

The gaps in the Philippine education system were also evident in the erroneous learning modules distributed to students during the pandemic. (LISTEN: [PODCAST] Ang mga maling impormasyon sa DepEd distance learning materials)

Mishaps such as “painful” grammar errorswrong math equations, and depictions of gender stereotypes alarmed a public already worried over the quality of education over 24 million students were receiving during the health crisis. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.