Private school standard tests data tells a grim story

CLOSED-- Thirteen days after the onslaught of typhoon Ompong, the Sabangan-Maba-ay Road along the Halsema Highway is still closed to traffic due to road slips at Tiging, Busa and Lukib, restoration work by the Mountain Province First District Engineering Office is ongoing. Photo by Roldan Colas shows the road slip at Busa, Sabangan. **Ferdie Cariño Castañeda

TABUK CITY, Kalinga – With the credibility of the National Achievement Test (NAT) now in question, people who want to trace the progression of the quality of public elementary education in the country over the years as well as to place its present state should approach private high schools which administer standardized tests.
In this city, sister schools Saint Tonis College (STC) and Tabuk Institute (STC) give standardized tests to their Grade 7 enrolees and their data paint a depressing picture.
More or less 75 percent of the average 150 freshmen enrolees of STC and 90 percent of the average 65 incoming first years of TI come from public schools. The balance are products of their elementary departments.
The Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT) which both schools employ determines the equivalent grade levels of the takers based on their scores in the 165-item test in Reading, Language, Math and Science with the Grade 7 as the desired grade level.
Evelyn Cuezon, who, as the long time Guidance Counsellor of the STC until recently when she was promoted to Dean of Student Affairs and Services, has been administering the MAT to STC incoming students since the early 80s, said that from being top heavy in the 80s up to around 2000, the distribution of the examinees has become alarmingly bottom heavy in recent years.
Cuezon recalls that until around 2000, the number of examinees falling below Grade 4 level was negligible.
By contrast, from SY 2012-2013 to SY 2017-2018, examinees in that category had averaged 20.25 percent with the upward trend very striking.
The figures for STC 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; and 2017-2018 – 33.56 percent.
As for TI, the statistics for examinees below Grade 4 level are as follows: 2014-2015 – 17.02 percent; 2015-2016 – 26.22 percent; 2016-2017 – 7.25 percent; 2017-2018 – 23.52 percent; and 2018-2019 – 26.04 percent.
Of these students, there were 40 in STC and 16 in TI below Grade 3 level.
“During the years that the Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) was in use, students who got scores below Grade 4 level were very rare because there were fewer subjects then. Based on the achievements of our graduates, the Revised Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC) was also alright. During those years, we had many students who came from the schools in remote barangays but they were able to cope with the academic requirements of the school,” Cuezon recalled.
Cuezon made it clear that she is only speaking of the experience of the STC.
Regarding the K-12 curriculum, Cuezon said it’s too early to evaluate it adding that in the case of STC, despite the mandate to use the Mother Tongue as medium of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 3, the school employs English as medium of instruction because “many parents enrol their children in the STC so they could learn English at an early age.”
“Children should learn English at an early age because examinations and text books are in English. We translate difficult concepts to pupils in the vernacular though,” Cuezon said.
Cuezon said that being an accredited school, the STC has the freedom to devise its curriculum but hastens to add that they do not negate the DepEd curriculum.
“We follow the DepEd curriculum but we add. We offer Advance Math, Advance English and Advance Science to our high school students,” Cuezon said.
Cuezon said that STC is not following the mass promotion policy of the DepEd either.
“Under the policy, students who fail have to enrol their failures in summer to be accelerated for that school year. In STC, if we see that a student cannot proceed, we retain him,” Cuezon said.
TI Guidance-designate Daisy Dagupon agreed that DepEd’s “No child left behind” policy is taking its toll because it reposes so much responsibility for the learning of children on teachers and there are instances that the teachers’ best efforts are frustrated by factors beyond their control.
She said that possibly could explain why nine of their Grade 7 students this year cannot spell words such as “bird,” “bread,” “peace,” “beautiful,” “peanut,” “watch,” “kindness” and “honesty.”
TI Principal Mae Pomay-o said that they have four non-readers this year adding that there would have been a fifth had not one quit on the fourth day of classes. She related that when they investigated, they found out from the grandmother of the student he is ashamed to go back to school because he could not read.
Just like the STC, TI maintains English as medium of instruction. Pomay-o reasoned that the decision of the school enables pupils who already know how to speak English when they come in to improve on skill and likewise to learn Ilocano while studying in the school.
On the subject of curriculum, Pomay-o and Dagupon expressed preference for the old curriculum because of its emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic hastening to clarify that the curriculum is not the entire explanation to the deteriorating academic performance of students.
They claim that for one, the attitude of the youth these days is no longer conducive to learning.
“Many of them no longer want to read, memorize and think and they have very poor study habits. They cannot concentrate. As though their minds are floating in space,” Pomay-o said.
The two educators also say that technology is competing for the attention of students observing that even with the DepEd memo banning cellphones in schools and the school collecting the gadgets at the start of the morning and afternoon sessions, some students manage to keep their cellphones and use them to play video games and play music in between classes.
Pomaay-o also said that the accessibility of the Internet contributes to the difficulty of developing good study habits among today’s students because the Internet provides a shortcut to information they want to know.
Cuezon informed that the STC procured the MAT assessment tool sometime in the early 80s to homogenize sections, serve as basis for remediation and to determine the reading, mathematical and language abilities of students.
Little did the school know then that the tool would also document the retrogression of public elementary education in the locality.
NAT data released by the Bureau of Education Assessment of the DepEd to the Manila Times showed that in the last two school years where the Grade 6 NAT was given while the students were already in Grade 7, the scores in all regions fell by an average of 30.04 points.
The DepEd continues to keep mum on the allegation that the drastic drop in the results of the test is the smoking gun on the alleged massive cheating which attended the test previously when the students were still in the elementary where their scores impacted the performance rating of the teachers and the school.**By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

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