Brains behind non-reader explosion

By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

“If I finally get the opportunity to meet the smart alecks, I will ask them to survey the damage they have wrought, to contemplate the situation of the pupils who graduated and will graduate from the elementary without knowing how to read. ”

I am dying to meet and talk to the DepEd smart alecks who proposed the scrapping of the old rule that a Grade 1 pupil cannot pass unless he knows how to read. I would like to ask them why in the world would anybody do away with a rule that has been proven to be sound and effective for many generations, why at all would anyone fix something that does not need fixing. Like I have already written here sometime back, I would like them to show me their proof that the IQ level of Filipino children of today has dipped from that of past generations thus the need for more time for them to learn and master the simple skill of reading.
I read that it was back in 2001 when DepEd came up with the “no non-readers in Grade 4” target. For sure those behind this objective were the same group who pushed for the retirement of the “no non-readers in Grade 2” standard because if the latter is maintained, there would be no room for their newfangled idea of “no non-readers in Grade 4.” If I come face to face with them, I would like to ask them why Grade 4 and not Grade 3. Or even Grade 6 since they moved the line anyway. There must be a special reason that they chose Grade 4.
My next question would be if they studied the implications of their recommendation. What usually happens when standards are relaxed? What will happen if say in the 2019 Miss Universe pageant, they will bring down the required height of contestants to 4’11”? What if the government no longer requires medical doctors to pass a board exams? Where is the compelling reason now for a Grade 1 to learn to read and for his teacher to teach him how to read if these activities could be done in Grade 2 and likewise in Grade 3 just as well? How will a Grade 2 pupil understand his lessons if he does not know how to read? Will not the new arrangement give rise to passing the buck for a non-reader in say, Grade 3, unlike before when the failure for a normal child to read in Grade 1 was always blamed on the Grade 1 teacher?
With the entry of the Aquino Administration in 2010, the new agenda became “Every Child a Reader by Grade 1 in 2016.” But true to their cluelessness, these DepEd people did not see the need to align the K-12 curriculum with the target such that the curriculum institutionalized the “no non-reader in Grade 4” with a minor difference: pupils should learn to read Filipino in Grade 2.
Perhaps learning from the agency’s miserable failure to deliver on the “Every Child a Reader by Grade 1 in 2016” target, the current DepEd officials are no longer saying when a child is supposed to know how to read. In DO No. 18, s. 2017, they merely said “every child should be a reader” and in DO No. 14, s. 2018, it is just “make every Filipino child a reader and writer at his/her grade level.” Perhaps the agency now wants to make the target year for a child to be able to read flexible in anticipation for students who could not read after Grade 3. Perhaps they want to make it appear nothing is wrong with a Grade 7 pupil who cannot read because who knows, that just might be the grade level where he acquires the skill.
Personally, I believe that what unhinged the reading program of the DepEd was its decision to do away with the “no non-reader in Grade 2” rule. The program is now in disarray.
If I finally get the opportunity to meet the smart alecks, I will ask them to survey the damage they have wrought, to contemplate the situation of the pupils who graduated and will graduate from the elementary without knowing how to read. I recently met one who dropped out from Grade 7 after he found out he can no longer get away with his inability to read in the new school and it was heartbreaking. Had the “no non-reader in Grade 2” rule still been in place, he would have faced his reading problem right in Grade 1 and would not have spent the rest of his elementary grades under the illusion that he could go through school without learning to read. In effect, the child lost six years and perhaps his opportunity to get educated forever.
With the continuing proliferation of non-readers in the elementary and high schools all over the country, the problem will soon become too pervasive to ignore and the government will be forced to address it once and for all. In the course of the upheaval, the names of those smart alecks will be dredged and they will have to explain their brilliant brainstorm.
Meantime, those who continue to allow non-readers to move on to the next grade run the risk of sharing in the ignominy of the brains of this explosion of illiteracy in the country at a time when our educational system is supposed to have advanced.**

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