“Data not official”
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
Note: This is a response to some reactions of DepEd officials to the Philippine Daily Inquirer report last February that there are some 70,000 non-readers in Bicol.
Statement of Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio in the articles“Claim that Bicol has 70,000 ‘non-readers’ not backed up by official data —DepEd Usec,” GMA News, February 19, 2020:
“Yung data na ‘yan, mga 10,000 yata diyan ang galing sa PHIL-IRI. ‘Yung iba, tool na hindi naman dinevelop ng DepEd,”
He reiterated that the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (PHIL-IRI)—where the 70,000 figure was attributed to by another report—only covers Grades 3 to 6 in the Filipino category and Grades 4 to 6 in English.
“Sa ibang grades, ‘yung Grades 1 hanggang ‘yung higher grades natin sa high school, wala tayong tool na ginagamit,” San Antonio said.
Statement of Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan in the report “Pupils’ problem not literacy but reading comprehension – DepEd,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 18,2020:
“The official PHIL-IRI na ina-administer in all regions, as far as we know are from Grades 3 onwards mayroon diyan for English and Filipino,” he said.
“Ang standardized tools namin ay from Grades 3 onwards so baka naggawa ng localized diagnostics for Grades 1 and 2… that data is something that we will have to clarify and correct,” he added.
What the Revised Phil-IRI Manual says:
“The Phil-IRI Listening Comprehension is administered when the student is identified as a nonreader. The purpose is to find out how well a student understands the selection which will be read by the test administrator. Then the test administrator reads the multiple choice questions and the student answers them orally.” Page 6
“The Graded Passages range from Grade 2 to Grade 7 Readability levels for English and Grade 1 to Grade 7 Readability levels for Filipino. The selections for Grade 2 to Grade 4 are narrative texts, while those from Grades 5 to 7 are expository texts.” (Page 6)
Phil-IRI definition of “non-reader:”
For purposes of the Phil-IRI, non-readers are also identified. Non-readers are pupils who are unable: to recognize and sound out letter-sound connections for single consonants; to recognize and sound out letter-sound connections for some consonant blends; to blend consonants and vowels in simple one-word (cvc, ccvc, cvcc) patterns; and to distinguish among long and short vowels that follow rules.
Undersecretaries San Antonio and Malaluan forgot that the subject of the PDI expose are non-readers, not the entire elementary and high school studentry of Region 5. We concede that an official DepEd tool is needed in determining the reading levels of students but we contend it is not necessary in separating children who could read from those who could not.
It can be gleaned from the cited Revised Phil-IRI Manual pages including Pages 696 and 697 that non-readers are identified by their classroom teachers before the Phil-IRI pretest. So these allegations that non-reader figures outside of Grades 3-6 in Bicol are unofficial as these did not result from a tool developed by the DepEd are invalid. We note that per wording of the manual and the fact that no instructions are given on how to identify non-readers, the DepEd correctly trusts the ability of classroom teachers to make the distinction.
Furthermore, we beg to disagree with the two officials there is no official DepEd reading assessment tool for Grades 1 and 2 and at least for Grade 7 in high school because as stated above, the readability levels of the graded passages of the Phil-IRI range from Grade 2 to Grade 7 for English and from Grade 1 to Grade 7 for Filipino. In fact, for the information of Undersecretaries Malaluan and San Antonio, some schools divisions have posted memoranda in their websites showing they have started administering the Phil-IRI to their Grade 7 students using the Revised Phil-IRI materials in SY 2018-2019. Sample is the Schools Division of Pampanga through Division Memorandum No. 69, series of 2019.
We maintain that in as far as identification of students and pupils who fall into the Phil-IRI’s description of a non-reader, teachers of all people are in no danger of erring and they do not need an official tool. The two officials overlook that non-readers cannot read so they are incapable of taking any test which involves reading. In fact, the Revised Phil-IRI Manual states in Page 8 that the pretest is not to be administered to non-readers. These insinuations that the count of Bicol non-readers outside of Grades 3 to 6 is invalid as they did not result from an official test are outrageous cases of nitpicking.
High schools have been segregating non-readers for purposes of remediation for many years now and it is only after the uncovering of the reading mess in Bicol that officials of the DepEd raise the concern of identifying non-readers sans an officially developed grade level appropriate reading assessment tool. We suspect that the concern of the DepEd is not the possible erroneous tagging of students as non-readers but the release of the information for dissemination to the public. **