A Lost Year or a Lost Decade in Basic Education

Now that we are at the end of year 2020, it is time to reflect on what we are leaving behind. Yes, 2020 may well be the worse year we have seen in this century. And we are all hoping that 2021 will be better. Since this blog focuses on basic education in the United States and in the Philippines, it is sobering to point out that this year only highlights our failures in basic education in both countries not just this year but during the past decade. In the United States, equity in education is still not within reach. Academic achievement gaps between the "haves" and "have nots" remain in schools in the US. And in the Philippines, a decade is lost by foolishly embarking on a new curriculum that does not address the real problems its schools are facing.

The achievement gap as seen vividly in the Nation's Report Card in the United States has lingered almost in the past two decades. Students who are eligible for free lunch based on family income are still scoring lower in math, reading and science:

At the end of high school, the gap has actually grown in all three subjects. It is clearly not getting better. It is getting worse. 

Across the Pacific, the Philippines has adopted a new K-12 curriculum without the resources necessary for a quality basic education. Classrooms and facilities remain inadequate. But more importantly, as we go through this current surge in COVID cases, we realize that what limits our response to critical cases is not the number of beds or ventilators. What limits our health care is the number of personnel experienced for handling patients with respiratory problems. The same goes with basic education. Teachers are necessary. And the Philippines continues to ignore its teacher education problem, which is simply a part of a bigger problem in higher education in the Philippines. Basic education in the Philippines can only be improved with an upgrade of institutions of higher education where future teachers are trained. And in addition, the problems in basic education in the Philippines are rooted in a massive failure in the early years of basic education. What the Philippines has done in the past decade amounts to ignoring completely these problems and wasting limited resources on adding two years at the end of high school.

Yes, 2020 was a lost year. But we actually wasted a decade in basic education. I hope we do better this coming year, this coming decade.

A Happy and Healthy New Year to all.