EAST ASIA and the Pacific must raise the quality of teaching to compensate for the “learning poverty” caused by the pandemic, the World Bank said.

It identified the countries where the pandemic most severely affected education as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines, “which need to focus on fostering systemic improvements and supporting all teachers,” it said in a recent report.

“Improving the capacity and behavior of existing teachers will be critical to improving learning outcomes because, in every East Asian and Pacific country, most of the teachers expected to be employed in 2030 have already been recruited,” it added.

In the Philippines, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia about 75% or more of teachers expected to be employed in 2030 are already teaching.

The World Bank reported a deficit in the basic education systems of middle-income countries.

“In eight countries (Cambodia, Kiribati, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Tonga, and Tuvalu), this learning poverty rate exceeds two-thirds,” it said.

The report found that students lack foundational skills and have difficulty acquiring advanced skills.

“Reading proficiency among 15-year-olds in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and even Thailand falls well below the levels predicted by those countries’ per capita incomes, while learning inequality persists between poorer and wealthier children,” it said.

In the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, students from disadvantaged backgrounds also showed lower learning proficiency compared to those from more advantaged backgrounds, according the 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) study.

The World Bank also cited the gaps in teaching quality in the region.

“Far too many teachers in middle-income East Asia and Pacific have not mastered the content they are expected to teach,” it said.

“Many teachers in the region also do not employ effective teaching practices. Only 7% or less of teachers in Mongolia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the poorer areas of Guangdong, China, demonstrate highly effective practices, while more than two-thirds use ineffective or weak practices. Weak teaching practices translate into poorer learning outcomes,” it added.

It also found uneven quality in teaching practices.

“In Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines, mathematics teaching practices in socioeconomically disadvantaged schools are significantly worse than in the best-off schools,” it added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson