DepEd officials sat on NAT fiasco
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
The recent decision of the Department of Education (DepEd) leadership to admit before the House Appropriations Committee and the public the low quality of our education as borne by the “low proficiency” results of the National Achievement Test (NAT) came two years late. It was not last year but in 2016 when the performance of our Grade 6 takers fell from “average mastery” range (66 to 85) to “low mastery” range (36 to 65) as it tumbled from the 69.10 in 2015 to 42.03 or by a massive 27.07 points. The score sunk further to 39.97 in 2017.
Instead of disseminating the results as provided in subsection 2, Section 3 of the enclosure of DepEd Order No. 55, series of 2016, which states that the results of the NAT be disseminated to the public “through different modalities such as the DepEd website, through DepEd issuances, conferences and forums,” the DepEd kept quiet on the unfortunate developments. The act of evasion is evidenced by the absolute absence of materials that pertain to the dismal results much less the data itself in their website until now that they have admitted the debacle.
The non-compliance to the rule to disseminate to the public the NAT results was somehow also confirmed in no less than the March 6, 2019 Senate Committtee of Education, Arts and Culture subcommittee hearing wherein Senator Sherwin Gatchalian informed that the NAT results he presented came from DepEd itself. He had explained that his staff had earlier conducted a exhaustive search for anything about quality of education and performance of students including the DepEd website.
The near halving of the score of our Grade 6 pupils in the NAT did not merit a press release nor interview with the press which is incredible considering that the agency regularly issues press releases majority of which are about events and things with little or no relevance at all to education.
It is also curious that the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Philippine Statistical Yearbook reflected the results of the next preceding year but the 2017 and 2018 yearbooks do not carry the 2016 and 2017 results.
The silence of the DepEd on the twin debacles was finally broken during the above-stated Senate hearing when Senator Gatchalian called attention to the results of the 2016 and 2017 NATs describing them as “alarming.” Based on a report in another paper, Secretary Leonor Briones reacted to the negative comments of Gatchalian claiming the NAT is not the only way “we can find out what is happening in the education sector.” The news report went on to say that Briones had informed that in the most recent Cabinet meeting, the Department of Science and Technology had reported to President Rodrigo Duterte that students were getting high marks in Science and Math tests on account of the senior high school program.
With the foregoing dismissive stance on the significance of the NAT as a measure of education quality, Briones’ acknowledgement during the briefing on the 2020 budget conducted by the House Appropriations Committee of the stagnating NAT performance and her request for a budget so her office could address the low quality of education was a surprising turnaround. Coincidental or not to the DepEd decision to come clean on the successive NAT fiascos finally, the 2018 Grade 6 NAT results is noteworthy in so many ways. First, the score being only 37.44 teeters at the brink of “very low mastery,” the lowest proficiency level which starts at 35.99. Second, it falls short of half the target. I am speaking of the Grade 6 NAT target for 2016 — 77MPS. There were no updates on the targets since then. Third, the takers were the first products of the K to 12 Program providing the public a very disappointing initial assessment of the merits of the new curriculum. The Grade 6 score in 2012 was 66.79, meaning the performance had gone down by 29.35 since the implementation of the K to 12 in 2013.
In keeping quiet over the embarrassing NAT downfall, DepEd officials have shown that like a bunch of juveniles, their first impulse when faced with a crisis is to flee or pretend it was a bad dream and they would soon wake up. Worse, others could not act on the crisis because they kept the matter to themselves treating it as a top secret for two years.
In contrast, previous leaderships of the DepEd addressed weaknesses uncovered by the NAT pronto. Because the 2004 NAT showed that a large portion of the Grade 6 takers were not prepared for high school, then Secretary Florencio Abad issued DepEd Order No. 27, series of 2005, mandating remedial measures for those who got scores lower than 30. In 2008, through DepEd Order No. 7, series of 2008, the agency came up with a priority program to turn around the low English performance of some 264 high schools and 1,894 elementary schools in the 2007 NAT. In 2012, through DepEd Memorandum No. 160, series of 2012, the agency initiated a program to raise the achievement level of schools which got 34 MPS and below in the 2011 NAT.
Briones and other concerned DepEd officials should explain why they sat on the devastating results of the NAT and did not address the quality of education until after two years. **