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Pangilinan, Villanueva: Low PISA ranking stems from hunger, poor nutrition

The Philippines’ low ranking in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is rooted in hunger and poor nutrition among Filipino children, two senators said.

“Kapag gutom ang bata, paano natin siya ma-expect na makapag-aral nang maayos?” Senator Francis Pangilinan said.

“Tungkulin nating lahat -- nasa loob at labas ng gobyerno -- na siguraduhing merong sapat at abot-kayang pagkain para sa lahat ng Pilipino. ‘Yan ang ibig sabihin ng pagiging food secure,” he added.

Results of PISA, which primarily “measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics, and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges,” showed that among 79 participating economies, the Philippines ranked lowest in reading and second lowest in both mathematics and science.

“Naniniwala akong resulta rin ito ng gutom sa mga batang Pilipino na marami ay underweight, stunting, or even wasting,” Pangilinan said.

One in five Filipino children (19.1%) under five years old is underweight, one in three (30.3%) is stunting, and one in 18 (5.6%) is wasting, according the latest figures from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

FNRI’s Expanded National Nutrition Survey -- conducted every five years in 2018 and released on Nutrition Month this July -- also finds that one in four adolescents (over 10 years old to 19) is stunting and one in nine is wasting.

Senator Joel Villanueva, Senate higher, technical, and vocational education committee chairman, described the PISA results are "disheartening."

“While this is a great concern in our basic education system, it will certainly have an effect on the ability of our students to cope with higher education environment and complete higher education,” he said.

Villanueva said one of the bills that he filed, Senate Bill 858, intends to amend existing laws to provide proper day care for preschool children.

“This is to give them proper care while their parents go to work. This will ensure proper nutrition and development support. I believe that our learning and academic performance starts with proper nutrition and appropriate learning and play environments at preschool,” he said.

“I hope my proposal will be considered and will contribute to improving not just the academic performance but the overall welfare of underprivileged children,” Villanueva added. —LDF, GMA News