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Vice President Sarah Duterte, Department of Education Secretary, Calls For Mandatory Return to Face to Face Learning to Address Learning Loss.
She may be facing an even bigger concern within her term due to LEARNER LOSS; the plummeting birth rates and baby bust will translate to loss of 10s of 1000s of classrooms of students within her term!
Sarah Duterte, Vice President of the Philippines, and daughter of past President Duterte, has been appointed as Education Secretary. I applaud her call for an unconditional return of students to return to face to face learning after 2 1/2 long years of distance learning, which only worked well for middle and upper class families with resources and internet access to learn effectively. Many students will never make up these lost years, with loss in education translating to loss of work opportunity, income, and therefore health and longevity, with widespread societal impacts.
VP Duterte has also emphasized that vaccination is not mandatory for return to face to face classes. Again, I applaud her for this, in the face of many schools still insisting that they will not accept unvaccinated students, or in some cases, that they would only accept unvaccinated children if all family members were vaccinated. Schools have been requesting families to disclose vaccine status of all members.
Personal experience: a school teacher asked me for the vaccine status of all family members in front of my child during an online PT conference this year. She informed me that she was required by the school to collect this information. This was in addition to repeated email surveys from the school asking for the same information. In all cases, I politely declined to provide these details on a medical confidentiality basis.
Will there be any students left under VP Sarah’s Watch?
After years of fairly stable birth rates, the Philippines has seen an unprecedented drop in population starting in 2020. The drop in 2020 cannot be due to covid-19, and instead is likely due to the impacts of the Philippine National Family Planning Program that was instigated in 2017. The drop in 2021 could have been a reflection of both the ready availability of family planning and the impacts on desire to start a family caused by lockdowns and loss of financial security and confidence in the future.
Between 2019 and 2021 there was a 22% decrease in registered live births! Initial 2022 data has just started to be released by PSA.
How will loss of live births translate to loss of elementary classrooms?
According to Unesco, a typical elementary class size in the Philippines is 43.9 students. Students start elementary school when they are 5 years old.
The 149,285 fewer registered live births in 2020 translates to 3,400 fewer classrooms of students starting Grade 1 in 2025. The decrease of 364,322 births in 2021 (compared to 2019) translates to 8,299 fewer classrooms of students starting Grade 1 in 2026.
What would happens if the Philippines posts a further drop births from 2021 to 2022? The January 2022 birth data (preliminary) shows a drop of 33% compared to January 2019. If this followed for the entire year this would give a 553,723 fewer babies born this year. By 2027 this will translate to 12,613 fewer classrooms required for Grade 1 students!
A loss of more than 1 million students entering education over a 3 year period!
The losses will not be limited to classrooms. The losses will translate to all services and industries related to supporting children, and child rearing! Ultimately they will translate to community sustainability, services, and available workforce.
It is still too early to see much of the impact of the Covid-19 Vaccination Program on births in the Philippines. Vaccination to health care workers started in March of 2021. Pregnancies (or lack of ability to deliver a successful pregnancy) of these workers will only become apparent starting in January 2022.
Rollout to the general population started July 2021. Pregnancies (or lack of ability to deliver a successful pregnancy) will only start to become apparent in April 2022. Vaccination of Pregnant women (3rd trimester) started in August 2022. Insufficient data has been released by the Philippines Statistics Authority to date this year to allow assessment of registered live birth impacts.
European countries, which rolled out vaccination earlier than the Philippines are already reporting plummeting births! Taiwan has reported a reduction of 23%. If any similar pattern followed here, the situation may be far worse than even my estimate! I pray I am wrong, but fear that I may be right.