K to 12 review without solving reading crisis a waste
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
Regarding the recent announcement of Education Secretary Leonor Briones that because of the low quality of education as indicated by the“low proficient” performance in the National Achievement Test (NAT) the Department of Education (DepEd) will undertake a review of the K to 12 curriculum, it is bound to fail unless drastic changes are made on the curriculum. For one, while Briones did not specify the targeted improvements, needless to say, the review should resolve the embarrassing inability of many school children including high school students to read. That is not only because education cannot begin unless kids could read but because the DepEd can never hope to upgrade NAT performance if many of the takers could not read the questions.
DepEd should listen to the criticism that the tight time allocation for the learning of the basics on account of the seven subjects in Grade 1 as compared to four in the old curriculum makes it next to impossible to teach all the members of the class specially the laggards to read. The DepEd should reduce the number of subjects to allow learners to breath and learn. Many teachers long for the time of the 3Rs saying that the learning results then are lightyears apart from the products of the K to 12. The lack of time budget is also being blamed for the sloppy handwriting of pupils.
The critics also point to the K to 12 not giving any weigth to the old practices of having children memorize and recite poems and to spell words on daily basis among other activities which forced children to learn to read in the past. Why at all would the DepEd practically decommissioned these time-honored procedures is a puzzle that is proving very costly to the quality of our education. To begin with, spelling drills and memorization are surefire methods to locate the non-readers and struggling readers without going through elaborate means.
The DepEd must get rid of the Mother Tongue innovation because it has been already proven to stunt development in English. At least three researchers conducted by Baguio City elementary school teachers indicate that the Mother Tongue has a negative effect on the reading in English. Comparing her Grade 4 pupils before and after the implementation of the Mother Tongue, researcher teacher Noemi Balalao wrote that only seven of her 90 pupils in 2014, the last year before the implementation of the program, fell under frustration level in English comprehenshion to the 15-20 of the 55 members of the 2018 batch. She also said the subjects of her study have problem understanding simple English such as “Put your bag on the table” in sharp contrast to those who did not take the Mother Tongue.
Teacher failure cannot account for the findings of the Baguio City teachers because being the No. 1 division in the NAT Grade 6 nationwide from 2016 to 2018, it can be assumed that the teachers there are a cut above the common run of Filipino public school teachers.
Some education experts at the Bureau of Learning Delivery of the DepEd tried to belittle the study of Balalao but never dared question it in the national paper it was reported in last December.
We do not find any logic in making children pass through their dialects to learn English when we have been learning English in Grade 1 for generations. Furthermore, with English the medium from Grade 4 all the way to college, in the professional examinations and the workplace itself, the wisdom is to teach children English at the earliest possible time.
If there are any DepEd or private defenders of the Mother Tongue policy who would dare, we challenge them to an open validation of the findings and observations of Balalao in randomly picked Grade 4 classrooms anywhere in the country. During the activity, we will ask the apologists to compare the knowledge and skills of the pupils with theirs while they were in Grade 2 or even in Grade 1.
We strongly believe that it is not a coincidence that the first batch of K to 12 elementary graduates (SY 2017-2018) got the lowest average score in the entire history of the Grade 6 NAT at 37.44 simply because of the heavy damage the Mother Tongue program has wrought on the education of our children. It even takes a toll on the spelling skills of children as many of them spell English words the way they spell in Filipino and Mother Tongue – as they sound. We dare the DepEd to find a more convincing explanation to the collapsing performance in Grade 6 NAT than the current main millstone around the neck of the K to 12: the Mother Tongue program. **