Late and stupid PIDS recommendation

By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

“ The recommendation should have been addressed to officials who could meaningfully act on it such as the President and the Committees on Education of both houses of
Congress.”

In its report on how DepEd is in undermining the quality of education it is delivering through unsound and outrightly foolish policies and practices titled “Pressures on Public School Teachers and Implications on Quality,” the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) touched on the phenomenon of high school non-readers. The report urged the DepEd to actively discourage the practice of allowing non-readers to graduate from the elementary grades. (Please see story in front page.)
The recommendation is stupid. First, it is wrongly addressed. The authors concluded that the problem of high school non-readers is just one of the “perverse effects” of the DepEd’s performance rating and incentives system which is primarily based on the drop out rate. If my memory serves me right, the practice of tying the performance rating and incentives of teachers with the agency’s zero drop out target started in the last administration and the DepEd are not that dumb not to have observed the dire effects on learners. Yet they maintain the system until now. How could you now trust someone who knowingly sabotages the attainment of the objectives of his agency to effect a recommendation which proves the error of a long-held practice or policy?
It is very telling is although the PIDS report was published last February, up until this writing, the DepEd still has to comment on it. And to think that during the March 6, 2019 hearing of the Senate Committee on Education, their representative has told the senators that the DepEd will act on concerns raised by the PIDS. The one on holding back Grade 6 non-readers was not one of those mentioned.
The recommendation should have been addressed to officials who could meaningfully act on it such as the President and the Committees on Education of both houses of Congress.
Second, the recommendation has no leg to stand on. Under the K-12 curriculum and the Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP), the goal is for the child to be an independent reader by Grade 3. As we have already written, the policy of the ECARP is “zero non-reader in Grade 4.” In effect, if the DepEd heeds the call of the PIDS, the screening of pupils between readers and non-readers is further moved to Grade 6 from Grade 3 which of course is out of the question.
And of course, alongside the facts that less than a generation ago, non-readers in Grade 2 were rare and that in private schools, Grade 1 pupils could read well, what the PIDS is urging the DepEd to do is absurd. It looks like the PIDS researchers did not do their assignment on this one.
If the PIDS really wanted to help the children, they could just have advised that the DepEd strictly implement the K-12 and ECARP timetable for teaching public school children to read.
The authors may have unknowingly misrepresented when they advised the DepEd to make the signal to be issued “stronger.” The word gives the false impression that the DepEd has already taken initial actions against the wrong practice of sending non-readers to high school. How could the DepEd have acted on the practice when it does not recognize the existence of a reading problem? There is not a single post in its website about the topic of non-readers and if its officials has ever made any pronouncement about what has shaped up as unprecedented reading crisis, it has not been documented by the media.
DepEd’s self-deception about its effectivity in the teaching of reading reached new heights when it removed the “non-reader” reading level in the manual of the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) it issued sometime in 2011. The “non-reader” column was contained in Phil-IRI reporting forms ever since the reading assessment tool was introduced in 2004 as a support measure for the implementation of the ECARP. The “non-reader” reading level is also missing in the Revised Phil-IRI manual it issued last year.
From the PIDS report, it looks like discovery of the high school non-reader problem was only an accident and that it was not what the researchers were digging into in the particular study. How come such a very serious problem escaped them until then when it has already been wreaking havoc on our school children for more than a decade?**

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