Make teachers explain why they pass non-readers
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
In the press release titled Gatchalian calls for urgent K-12 curriculum reform where he warned we cannot expect better results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2021 and improved quality of education for students under the K-12 program if no significant reforms are implemented in the K-12 curriculum, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Basic Education, Arts and Culture Committee, mentioned that one of the results of the congested curriculum is the continuous presence of non-readers in the higher grades.
We are happy that the senator has finally acknowledged the non-reader phenomenon albeit merely saying higher grades. We are hoping that as lead senator on basic education concerns, he will now buckle down to work until effective solutions for the primary cause of our humiliation in the PISA and the foremost indicator of the alarming decline in the quality of our basic education are found. We offer these suggestions towards the thorough diagnosis of the problem:
First, request the PISA to share its assessment of the reading levels of the Filipino examinees. Given already available facts proving the existence of non-readers even in high school including the fact that DepEd Memorandum No. 173, series of 2019, titled Hamon: Bawat Bata Bumabasa was also addressed to secondary schools, there is a very high probability that some of the local PISA takers were non-readers and struggling readers. The report could give an idea as to the extent of the illiteracy problem in high school.
There are items in the test which require the takers to answer in their own words which not only reveal their reading ability but their handwriting skills as well. It is well known that compared with the old curricula, the K to 12 gives less emphasis to the learning of handwriting such that there are Grade 6 pupils who could not write letters and numbers in the standard way. If the answers of our PISA takers proves this, then this is another area to look into in the remaking of the K to 12 Curriculum.
Second, so that the actual reasons non-readers could slip through to high school despite DepEd Order No. 45, series of 2002, which states that only those who have mastered the basic literacy skills could be promoted to Grade 4 and DepEd Memorandum No. 021, series of 2019, which vests the reading competency in Grades 1 and 2 would be known, teachers and school officials involved in such questionable promotions should be called to explain their decisions. The Senate could begin with the teachers, principals and division superintendents who passed the Grade 7 non-readers and struggling readers at the Sauyo High School in Novaliches, Quezon City featured in the documentary Pag-asa sa Pagbasa which GMA 7 aired on September 1, 2018. This is necessary because the DepEd leadership has been distancing itself from the unimpeded passage of non-readers through the grades and is not offering any clear and satisfactory explanations either.
Third, the DepEd should be asked to reconcile its regular conduct of the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI), its reading assessment test, on one hand with the swelling number of non-readers in the higher grades to as advanced as Grade 8 on the other. To help shed light on the incongruity, the DepEd should also be asked to submit all results of the reading examinations in its keeping.
As for Sen. Gatchalians concern about our chances in the next PISA test, we suggest the Senate to prod the DepEd to immediately act on the recommendation of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, the state think tank, last February for the agency to stop the practice of sending non-readers to high school. Corollary to the policy, the DepEd should also address the case of non-readers and frustration level readers already in high school with the end in view of making all high school students at least passable readers beginning next school year which definitely would give us a better chance in the next PISA considering the high probability that some of our takers in the last one had difficulty reading or could not read at all.
Given the DepEds proven propensity to disregard its own policies and standards for reasons it only knows, it will do well for the Senate to provide for the close supervision and monitoring of the implementation of the policy.**