Teacher Corner | Can we avert a learning crisis?

by Maricris N. Ilano
Teacher 1
Carolina Elementary School

Education experts and leaders fear that the challenges brought about by the pandemic can give rise to a learning crisis.

This is aggravated by other factors such as poverty, disasters and climate change, wars and political violence, and enduring social inequalities.

In a learning crisis, children may be going to school, but are learning inadequately, or not learning at all.

Many are not able to understand what they read, or cannot even read, despite being taught.

Many cannot solve simple math problems, despite being advanced in grade level.

Many cannot calculate the exact change after purchasing something, understand a graph or chart, or discern whether a piece of information is fake or not.

In other words, despite access to education, many do not seem to be educated.

They cannot be expected, therefore, to satisfactorily build a career, or educate their children. Their productivity, opportunities to earn, and even their self-esteem suffer. In turn, the society that has failed to provide them with quality education also suffers. Its citizens cannot drive economic growth or spur innovation and development.

Meanwhile, many others do not have access to education. When the pandemic forced the closure of schools and the shift to remote learning, many learners and their families were not able to keep up with the quick changes. The shift to these new learning modalities meant new expenses, and new logistical issues.

These circumstances signal a learning crisis, which must be averted to prevent more major, long-term problems.

Averting a learning crisis requires many efforts.

Education stakeholders such as teachers and school heads, students, their families and guardians, national and local leaders, members of the business community, and socio-civic and religious groups would have to work together to solve the common concern.

There should be, for one, a way to assess learning accurately. There are already standardized tests and assessments that do this. However, even these should be examined if they truly are able to assess the skills and knowledge of the learners.

There should be more evidence-based research on learning. These should take into account the local experience, which may be unique and unlike any other in the world. It should assess whether the learning opportunities provided to learners are indeed the best for them, or whether there should be some adjustments and improvements made. Teachers should also be assessed on whether they are adequately equipped with the teaching skills and strategies, along with the motivation to educate.

The end goal is to make the system work for learning. It is to improve schooling quality so that it achieves its objective of uplifting the lives of learners and allowing them to reach their full potential as persons and as members of society.

The answer to whether we can we avert a learning crisis ultimately depends on whether we genuinely want to or not.