Senator Gatchalian wrong about K-12

By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

“ Filipinos are already learning how to read in Grade 1 for generations and here comes DepEd and Congress with the K-12 which makes Filipinos acquire the same skill in three years exclusive of Kindergarten! ”

On March 6, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian boldly declared the K-12 program is to blame for what he calls the alarming state of the quality of education in the country. But the very next day, he executed a swift turnaround when he clarified that while the K-12 may have a part in the “decline of scores,” the problem is in the implementation of the program and the manner it is taught and not the program itself.
I beg to disagree. The K-12 is badly flawed. For one, the program incorporated the logic- and experience-defying innovation introduced by the DepEd in 2001 which extends the teaching and acquisition of reading skills up to Grade 3. Those behind the new timeframe blotted from their minds the fact that for many generations, Filipinos have been learning to read including in English in Grade 1, a fact all the senators themselves could attest to. In fact, pupils in private schools continue to learn to read in Grade 1 and even in the Kindergarten for some. So while in the traditional curriculum, pupils are already improving on their reading skills and are already ready to take on other learning activities the moment they become literate in Grade 1, in the K-12 which is supposed to be a better system, the child will wait until Grade 3 to learn to read in English.
Filipinos are already learning how to read in Grade 1 for generations and here comes DepEd and Congress with the K-12 which makes Filipinos acquire the same skill three years earlier exclusive of Kindergarten! If that is not plain stupidity, I do not know what is.
For another, there are already three studies conducted by public school teachers in Baguio City which indicate that the mother tongue feature of the K-12 slows down the acquisition of English reading skills and overall development in the language. Noemi Balalao, one of the researchers, had said that she was prompted to conduct the study because of the observation that 2018 Grade 4 pupils of the Camp 7 Elementary School, the first batch which underwent the mother tongue program, had trouble understanding simple English such us “Put your things on the table” which, according to her, was not the case with her pupils who did not go through the program. In English reading comprehension, only seven of the 90 of the last batch of pupils who did not undergo the mother tongue fell under frustration level while 15-20 of the 55 in the 2018 batch fell in that level.
The Senate Committee on Education could easily validate the findings of Balalao. All they need to do is talk to Grade 4 teachers who were already teaching the grade before the introduction of the K-12 and also to observe the goings on in Grade 4 classes in public schools.
As for the overall effect of the K-12 on the learning of reading, the records of the reading intervention efforts of the local government of Valenzuela City where Senator Gatchalian hails is sufficient to prove that when it comes to reading, the K-12 eats the dust of the traditional 3Rs curriculum which tells a lot about the merit of the K-12 it being that reading is the foundation of all learning. Since 2014 when the LGU discovered that one of every 10 Grade 6 pupils in the locality could not read and eight others are frustration level readers, it has dealt with the problem but as of last summer last year, according to a story in the April 11, 2018 Business Mirror, the LGU still offered a reading-skills training to “213 non-readers, 3,725 frustrated readers and 14,712 instructional readers” Grades 2 to 6 pupils. While it is true that the K-12 had nothing to do with the Grade 6 non-readers when the phenomenon first caught the attention of the LGU in 2014, if the K-12 is the best news that ever happened to Philippine education, how come after five years and with the LGU’s all out support at that, the non-reader problem is not easing in the city?
Lastly, if the Senate Committee on Education wants concrete bases for comparing the relative soundness of the curricula adopted by the government through the years with each other, it could approach private high schools which administer standardized tests to their incoming freshmen for their records of the results. For example, the data of the Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT) results for the Saint Tonis College high school department, one of the leading secondary schools in Kalinga, of takers falling below Grade 4 level in the last seven years are as follows: 2012-2013 – 13.75 percent; 2013-2014 – 12.34 percent; 2014-2015 – 16.27 percent; 2015-2016 – 21.32 percent; 2016-2017 – 24.30 percent; 2017-2018 – 33.56 percent; and 2018-2019 – 60.4 percent. Take note of the escalation in the last two years when the first elementary school products of the K-12 were the takers. Erstwhile Guidance Counsellor Evelyn Cuezon who has been administering the test in the school since the 80s stated that up to around 2000, the takers falling below Grade 4 level were negligible. An average of 75 percent of the secondary students of STC come from public schools.
I am betting my bottom dollar that the standardized test data of other private high schools in the country dominated by products of public schools tell the same story. So much about sloppy implementation being the only thing wrong with the K-12. **

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