DepEd has no intent to get us out of the Pisa hole (rejected letter to the editor for Inquirer)
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
With the Department of Education (DepEd) refusing to counter my contention that its de facto mass promotion policy and the non-reader problem it created and sustains were the main culprits for our debacle in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) (“DepEd lenient policies led to Pisa debacle,” December 11, 2019, and “What ordinary citizens can do while DepEd, Congress bury their heads in sand,” December 19, 2019), let me present some indicators on how deep these factors cut into our chances in the survey.
First, three of our top four regions in the Pisa namely the runaway leader National Capital Region (NCR), third placer Region 4-A and fourth placer Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), are among the six regions which so far have openly admitted to having reading headaches. Through Regional Memorandum 18-312 dated June 5, 2018, DepEd Region 4-A enjoined support for their reading intervention program citing reports that “there are still nonreaders in Grades 7 and 8 and readers with poor comprehension in higher grades.” An unnumbered memorandum of the DepEd NCR dated Sept. 6, 2018, required the submission of data in the English reading performance of elementary and secondary learners with the report form for high school students having a column for nonreaders. Last November, the DepEd-CAR released the results of the Philippine Information Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) for school year 2018-2019 showing that it had 301 non-readers in English in Grades 4-6 and 305 in Filipino in Grades 3-6 during that term.
It follows that these three regions could have done better in the Pisa were it not for their reading problems. Logically, the weaker regions are also affected by the phenomenon and their performance in the Pisa have also been pulled down by their poor reading proficiency levels.
Second, 62 points separate the average scores of takers from the private schools and from public schools (390 versus 328) in Reading. Private schools do not practice mass promotion and they have no non-readers in Grade 2.
Third, according to the findings of the National Early Grade Reading Assessment and Snapshots of Schools Management and Effectiveness Survey conducted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the Indonesian government in 2014, only 5.9 of the Grade 2 students there were non-readers. On the other hand, it is estimated that 10 percent of our incoming Grade 7 students are non-readers and frustrated readers. With that distinct advantage over us, Indonesia was higher by 31 points in Reading and five rungs ahead of us overall in the Pisa. From that, we could just imagine how much better we would have fared if, just like our private schools, our public schools do not practice mass promotion and have no non-readers in Grade 2 like the way it was before the DepEd tinkered with our curriculum.
Based on the foregoing, we can never hope to move out of the bottom of the Pisa rankings unless the DepEd stops the practice of promoting to the next grade the ineligible. Unfortunately for the country this no brainer is too profound for our DepEd officials who, a month after the Pisa disaster, still have to issue an order stopping the mass promotion practice casting serious doubts on the sincerity of their endless and fighting professions to get us out of the hole. **