Students–The biggest loser in the pandemic?

WE may not be aware of it, but the long period when students are not attending in-classroom learning may result to serious, long-lasting if not permanent effects. It can create a big inequality in this generation of students who happen to be between 4 years old and 25 years old in 2020 and 2021. According to an article in dated February 1, 2022: “We are losing a generation: The devastating impacts of Covid-19. Unless swift and bold action is taken, learning poverty can reach 70 percent.”

Schools were closed in the Philippines since the pandemic started in 2020 and only recently this year were students finally get to attend in-room class teachings. But even then, most of the schools were only opening in-classroom teaching every other week. Like the Philippines, countries in South Asia, Latin America, Middle East and even in East Asia, schools are closed for long periods of time.

In Europe, our 8-year old granddaughter had been attending classes since 2020. This is because Europe reopened their schools quickly, knowing perhaps the adverse effect it might have on students and a lack of sufficient information on the benefits of complete and long closure. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been engaging Europe’s decision-makers with the help of parents, teachers and school administrators. A WHO report showed that children and adolescents are generally at low risk of infection; and if they become infected, it is likely to be mild. Although there are some children and young people who were severely affected with the disease and a few have died.

The biggest losers are kids from the poorest families like in our country since they lack internet access and computers or devices for remote learning. Such remote learning cannot replace interactive classroom teaching. This further widens the already large inequality of opportunity for the poor.

It is extremely sad to think that in a developing country like the Philippines, Covid-19 has the most negative impact. Aside from lowering growth, it increases poverty and more inequality for a generation of our students compared to the more developed ones. According to a report of the World Bank, it will be a “terrible triple threat to global prosperity for decades to come.”

In other countries like Brazil and India, educators measured the learning efficiency of continuous learning and found out that after a year without in-person classes, students had learned 27-percent less than what they would have learned in normal times.

The loss of learning in the Philippines has not been fully quantified, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. However, a joint report which was published in March 2022 with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Bank, the Unicef reported that the Philippines had the longest closure–more than 70 weeks–among the 122 countries that were subject of the survey by the report.

While schools in other countries closure was 20 weeks to 21 weeks, which is the global average, the Philippines was 50-weeks longer in closure and over the global average. Thus, it not surprising that the report also shows that fewer than 15 percent of 10-year old Filipino students could read a simple text. (Source

There is a need for national sense of urgency to address this problem. And this applies to all countries in the world. Our attention was caught by the devastating impact of this virus causing millions of deaths worldwide. The next is the impact on the economy, causing more suffering due to job losses, the rise of poverty, the rise of prices of commodities, etc.

But the third impact, we are not so mindful because we can only feel its consequences in the future: the loss of learning capability of students because of the lack of in-room teaching or interactive education, which no remote learning can ever replace. And when damages that this Covid-19 are tallied, according to the World Bank report, the biggest loss could be the loss of learning of our students.

However, hybrid learning (online learning and in-classroom learning) can be effective too, and is here to stay. An effective partnership of the government and concerned agencies with educators is crucial to provide the learning that our students need to get back the education that was lost in the two years that they were out of the classroom. Further, it can hopefully avert the problem of permanent damage.

But the time to act is NOW.

Wilma Miranda is the 2022 chairman of the Finex Ethics Committee, the Managing Partner of Inventor, Miranda & Associates, CPAs, and member of the Board of Directors of KPS Outsourcing Inc. The views she expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of these institutions and the BusinessMirror.

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