Fifth region admits reading crisis but DepEd central refuses to budge

By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

“… these regional initiatives addressing the reading crisis are bound to fail unless the DepEd first makes up its mind or is forced by an outside agent to seriously implement the ECARP policy that no pupil can move to Grade 4 …”

Through Regional Memorandum No. 243, s. 2019, Region X Department of Education (DepEd) officials admitted they too are grappling with the reading crisis. While the memorandum did not use the word “non-reader,” it announced the launching of “a region-wide reading project aimed at making every elementary and high school learner an independent reader in Mother Tongue, Filipino and English.” Under the K-12 curriculum and Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP), children are supposed to be independent readers by Grade 3 so if there are high school students who could not read, there really is something awfully wrong.
Region X is the fifth region with enough candor and humility to acknowledge the problem openly the others being the National Capital Region (NCR), Regions IV-A, XI and XII. Region XII took the lead in April 2016 with Region Memorandum No. 106, s. 2016, launching the “Project Care for Non-readers as Region-wide program” covering Grade 2 to Grade 8 non-readers.
Meantime, the DepEd national office adamantly maintains its silence on the reading crisis. There is nothing whatsoever in its website about the problem nor has any of its officials starting from Secretary Leonor Briones uttered a word about it publicly. Four months after the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) made the call for the DepEd to actively discourage the practice of sending non-readers to high school, the agency pretends it has not learned about the recommendation even while it promised to consider some other concerns raised by the state think tank during the Senate public hearing on the state of the country’s education on March 6.
With no national policy or guidance officially enunciated by the DepEd addressing the reading crisis, the DepEd resembles a headless chicken in the face of the ever growing population of students with reading difficulties. It is as though the regions are left to themselves to deal with the problem or even have the choice to confront it or not which may explain why only five regions have to far created programs to combat the phenomenon. And it will remain that way until such time DepEd officials get rid of their childish and insane pretence that the problem does not exist because how could they start fixing a problem they do not admit exists?
In fact, the programs of the five regions conflict with the 2011 and 2018 manuals of the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI), the reading assessment tool of the DepEd. The two editions no longer carry the “non-reader” column in their reading profile forms. DepEd Memorandum No. 324, series of 2004, which launched the Phil-IRI as one of the measures supporting the implementation of the ECARP prescribed reading profile forms with a columns for non-readers. The 2009 Phil-IRI Manual and Users’ Guide had maintained the column. The five regions will now have to revert to the old reading profile forms while the rest of the regions use the new forms. So which is which now?
Based on previous experience, these regional initiatives addressing the reading crisis are bound to fail unless the DepEd first makes up its mind or is forced by an outside agent to seriously implement the ECARP policy that no pupil can move to Grade 4 unless he shows  mastery  of basic literacy skills. On March 21, 2014, DepEd-NCR issued a “No Read, No Pass” policy through Regional Memorandum No. 067, series of 2014. It states that teachers who pass a Grade 2 pupil who could not read in Filipino and a Grade 3 who could not read in both Filipino and English “will be dealt with accordingly.” The non-readers at the Sauyo High School in Quezon City featured in the GMA 7’s “Pag-asa sa Pagbasa” on September 1, 2018 were then in Grade 2 and under the policy, they should have been stuck in Grade 3 indefinitely until they could read.
The irrational refusal of DepEd national officials to admit the existence of the reading crisis despite overwhelming evidence is the biggest obstacle to resolving the problem. Not until they come to their senses or are forced to do so could recovery from this dark era in Philippine education begin. **

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