The Philippines has been hounded by learning backlog even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But remote classes due to the shuttered schools have further set back learning by two to three years, an education advocate said.
"Two years ang kanilang backlog and then comes the pandemic so another two to three years, so it means five years na silang behind," Associate professor Arlyne Marasigan, a rural education advocate, said on Mark Salazar's special report on "24 Oras."
"There is really a need to adjust the curriculum," she added.
Challenged by the lack of classrooms, the Department of Education (DepEd) has continued to implement blended learning in public schools.
Several parents believe this setup was to blame for the learning poverty afflicting their children, who are having difficulty reading and understanding simple text by age 10.
Grade 7 student, Jose, is 12 years old. But, he can only read one syllable at a time. He finds its doubly hard to read texts in English.
A reading level assessment on Jose bared his capability to read was that of a Grade 3.
Jose was one of the kids described in a World Bank study, which showed that nine out of 10 children aged 10 years old cannot read and comprehend.
The pandemic has forced schools to implement remote learning using modules studied at homes to guide students.
The Philippines was one of countries which had the longest school closures due to the health emergency.
Despite the easing of the pandemic, Philippine schools were slow to return to face-to-face classes. A number of schools have also institutionalized blended learning, combining on-campus with online classes.
Jose's mother admitted answering the modules herself. She said she also informed the teachers about this.
"Sa totoo lang po inamin ko naman maam hindi po sila ang sumasagot sa module kundi kami magulang po kasi hindi pa nila yan naiintindihan," she said.
"Pwede nyo po ibalik sa nararapat kaso hindi raw po pwede magbagsak ng estudyante sa ngayon kaya pinapasa nila kahit ganun," she added.
Even before the pandemic, Filipino students have been falling behind in learning levels.
According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, only one out of five Filipino students passed the minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematical literacies.
DepEd this year announced a reduction of subjects to allow educators to focus on "functional literacy," including improving reading comprehension.
The department also allowed schools to adjust their curriculum to suit the students' needs.
It also recommended giving students access to barangay reading centers and to technology for those who cannot afford it.
"Middle class children they can read fast they can read more why? Because they have access to gadgets they have access to necessary supplementary materials," Marasigan said.
According to DepEd Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Francis Cesar Bringas, the "institutionalization of the blended learnings is our long term solution" for the lack of classrooms "since we are not assured that in the next few years we will be able to cover up all these backlogs in classrooms."
Meanwhile, in some communities such as in Maricaban, Pasay, volunteer groups have been helping students get by.
"Ang objective po ng kariton klasrum ay para ibalik ang nawalang pagmamahal ng kabataan sa pag-aaral," Olym Vidallo of the Kariton Klasrum, said.
DepEd has also started its National Learning Camp which provides tutorial lessons.
"We started with grade 7 and 8. Next year we will go to 8 - 7, 8 and 9 but we will expand this further. This will help our learners cope with the losses in the pandemic and provide intervention as well for better emphasis on language," Bringas said.
For Marasigan, it takes a whole community to educate children.
"I think it's the effort of the community, the parents, guardian participation, the continuity of reading practices of children must continue at home," she said.—LDF, GMA Integrated News