The Philippines is home to thousands of less fortunate people, with 4 out of 10 individuals identifying in the lower class. Of the 69.9 million assessed individuals, 29.4 million or 42.1% were categorized in poverty. Consistent with having the most number of poor households, ARMM (the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) also has the highest magnitude of extremely poor individuals (3,145,861), followed by Central Visayas (2,933,332) and Western Visayas (2,703,667). By nationwide share, the regions with the lowest number of identified poor individuals are CAR (1.2%), NCR (2.0%), and Cagayan Valley (2.7%).
A total of 29.4 million less fortunate individuals compromise the 5.2 million households which are categorized in the lower class. Of the entire group of those in poverty, 14.2 million are females and the remaining 15.2 million are males. The ratio of male to female household head is 4:1. 4.6 million households are led by men while 632,360 are led by women. Almost 3 in every 10 individuals are composed of the youth. 26% of the less privileged are kids aged 15-30 years old. In this sector, the males (3.9M) slightly outnumber the females (3.6M).
As a privileged person of my country who is fully capable of providing myself with a sustainable education, I recognize that everyone does not have the same amount of blessings as I do. As I walk by the streets, and pass through local stores, I notice the vulnerability of children who aren't provided their basic needs. I observed their current impoverished state, which made me realize just how hard the blended learning will be for them.
Considering that these students, who do not have the capabilities to even buy school books and school supplies, are suddenly forced to buy technological devices that are outside their budget. They are unable to adapt to the challenges that the blended learning has presented to them. In addition to the ineffectiveness and apathy of the department of education of the Philippines, these marginalized communities are even in a greater risk of being unable to cope with the pandemic.
The causes of the inaccessibility of technology and educational materials online for these less privileged people are centered around the growing rates of poverty in the Philippines. There has been low to moderate economic growth for the past 40 years, which hurts those in the low class in various ways:
low growth elasticity of poverty reduction;
weakness in employment generation and the quality of jobs generated;
failure to fully develop the agriculture sector;
high inflation during crisis periods;
high levels of population growth;
high and persistent levels of inequality (incomes and assets), which dampen the positive impacts of economic expansion; and
recurrent shocks and exposure to risks such as economic crisis, conflicts, natural disasters, and "environmental poverty."
These issues greatly devastate the lives of the residents in the marginalized sectors, taking away their opportunities for higher education and promotions in the workforce. To address these problems further, it is important to look at the root causes of this issue and do extensive research regarding the lives of Filipinos. Multidimensional responses to poverty reduction are needed, and the government should respectfully increase its role in providing a healthy environment for its citizens.
An academic freeze is the first step toward providing tangible solutions for addressing the accessibility of technology and educational resources in different sectors in the Philippines. As far as there are underprivileged students who are victims of a distorted system, an “academic freeze” is the most plausible and the most successful option for students, teachers, and school administrators.
It allows them to collaborate in helping our front liners, assisting our local governments, and in helping the country recover from an economic recession by conducting inclusive socio-economic volunteer mobilization programs. With a mental health pandemic and digital divide cutting deeper into our educational system, an “academic freeze” should be considered — at least, until and unless the curve has flattened and mass testing has been made and proven effective, Filipinos will always be in the face of danger.
It may not be the best solution, but an “academic freeze” can be adopted until the digital divide is fully resolved or results of mass testing and curve-flattening are already evaluated empirically. This will require a flexible academic term, calendar, and curricula to lessen the school days required, lower the number of course requirements, and reduce tuition and other fees usually projected for the use of school facilities.
An “academic freeze” can also be adopted through a “no vaccine, no classes” policy wherein all academic calendars and curricula need not to be adjusted, but will just have to suspend classes per academic year. If there is no vaccine yet as of 2020, it may be possible to suspend the Academic Year 2020 to 2021 and resume classes on the Academic Year 2021 to 2022 without adjusting the June to March and August to May academic calendars.
An academic freeze can be greatly beneficial to the underprivileged in the lower class because it can provide them more opportunities for future financial stability. Economically affected agencies, companies, and institutions, whether public or private, can encourage and motivate graduating students to apply for a job during the “academic freeze” to support the growth of local businesses, but they should be lenient in the submission of their academic requirements for employment. Furthermore, a possible loan with no interest agreement, public-private partnership, or government-business coordination can incentivize school employees and contractual workers to continue improving their morale and productivity to provide quality education, post-pandemic.
Early resumption of classes will just cause additional burden and stress to families and guardians providing tuition and allowances as the transition to “new normal” lets all of us, most especially the indigents, prioritize necessities from square one. Not all freshman or sophomore students can afford and access the gadgets used in an online school. “Academic freeze” will give the country time to have effective and efficient mass testing or mass vaccination; not only in the hands of one but for a collective and responsive system to push through, stay safe, and make necessary preparations in this pandemic.
Although quarantine was strictly implemented amongst the different regions within the country, there continue to be devastating cases all around the nation, especially with the failure of most testing kits in hospitals and medical institutions. This problem has unwillingly placed the less vulnerable people in a weak bargaining position. It restricts their educational opportunities and limits their access to buying different tools for online courses because of their financial difficulties.
Although non- profit organizations are doing their best to donate more resources to these freshman or sophomore students, the funds in the education department cannot completely supply the demands of poor families. The increasing rates of poverty present within the country have made it especially difficult to cater to those who are in desperate need of assistance. Only through this academic freeze can tangible effects be seen in uplifting the less fortunate. This policy will greatly contribute to more social equality, especially among social classes. It can also motivate the people in poverty to look for jobs without having to balance their studies.
One of the most major and difficult challenges which would challenge the implementation is probably the employment of teachers. Teachers and professors will have to make several adjustments to resume and become financially stable. Although there are numerous amounts of changes they need to make in their lifestyle, there are still ways for these people to make money such as homeschool teaching, tutoring, or online education.
There are also cases wherein it may be possible for some schools to close because they don’t earn enough funds to pay for their facilities or employees. Although this may be the case for some schools or universities, education is a right. Everyone should have the right to have access to tools to pursue their education. This right is not limited to those who are privileged. To help these universities or educational institutions foster, the government can also provide subsidies to assist them.
No student should be left behind. Education is a right, but crisis response speaks of valuing human lives.
B. Sape, E., R. Aquino, B. and G. Olivar, A., 2020. OPINION: An ‘Academic Freeze’ Is The Best Option For Filipino Students For Now. [online] cnn. Available at: <https://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2020/6/1/academic-freeze-opinion.html#:~:text=%E2%80%9CAcademic%20freeze%E2%80%9D%20will%20give
Asian Development Bank. 2020. Poverty In The Philippines: Causes, Constraints And Opportunities. [online] Available at: <https://www.adb.org/publications/poverty-philippines-causes-constraints-and-opportunities