State think tank confirms high school non-reader problem

The Baguio Central School welcomed 2,892 learners for the school year 2019-2020 during the school opening on Monday, June 03. The Baguio Central School is the oldest and biggest elementary school in the city of Baguio with students reaching more than 3,000. **RMC PIA-CAR

The Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), the state think tank, implicitly confirmed that the problem of high school non-readers is pervasive.
In the report titled “Pressures on Public School Teachers and Implications on Quality” released last February, the PIDS called on the DepEd to issue clearer instructions to elementary schools to stop allowing non-readers to graduate.
The report said that Grade 7 students who could not read “for comprehension” are among the “perverse effects” of the performance evaluation and incentive system of the DepEd which pushes for “zero dropout” target.
The PIDS said that under the system, the dropout rate in the class forms a part of the bases for assessing the teacher’s performance and is also used in determining his or her performance-based bonus, the annual incentive for government personnel adjudged to have met targets.
“In the absence of other clearer student performance-based measure that can be traced back to quality of teaching, dropout rates become the metric for teacher quality. This sends a problematic incentive signal to teachers as they are evaluated based on zero dropout rates and not on actual quality of learning of students,” the report said.
The PIDS said that the insistence on the dropout rate as determinant of performance and incentive has led to the practice of “mass promotion” “wherein even students who failed exams and skipped half of the year’s school days can be promoted.”
“Some of these students will end up in seventh grade without knowing how to read for comprehension,” the PIDS report said.
While acknowledging the difficulty of “striking a balance between ensuring completion and securing good quality education,” the PIDS insisted that limits should be observed one of which is to forbid passing on to high school pupils who could not read.
“Sending non-readers to high school should be actively discouraged and elementary schools that allow this require close monitoring and supervision. Even without sanctions, the signalling from DepEd that such action is poor practice needs to be stronger,” the PIDS said.
The DepEd has yet to comment on the report and recommendation of the PIDS based on the search on its website and monitoring of press releases and public statements of education officials online.
In a news report posted in its website, the PIDS informed that the DepEd told members of the Senate Committee on Education during its inquiry on March 6 that it acknowledged and will act on issues and challenges raised by the PIDS.
However, the issue of the practice of elementary schools sending illiterate pupils to high school was not one of these.
In fact, despite the DepEd field offices in the NCR and Regions 4-A, XI and XII and in the province of Catanduanes admitting being affected by the problem through posts in their websites, the DepEd national office maintains silence on the issue.
Through a letter dated March 26, this correspondent has tried to elicit reaction from Secretary Leonor Briones ‘High school nonreaders a failure of division and elementary schools’ in the March 14, 2019 issue of the Manila Times. He sent a follow up letter on May 9, 2019 but until now Briones still has to reply.
This correspondent asked for reaction on the following among others: if the DepEd was aware of the existence of non-readers in high school; if it’s true that the problem of high school nonreaders is the sole responsibility of the schools divisions and elementary schools and the DepEd national office has nothing to do with it whatsoever; and if the DepEd has already issued any directive to the field offices to see to it no non-reader will be allowed to graduate from the elementary
In an interview last January, personnel at the Bureau of Learning Delivery (BLD) said the DepEd national office has no data on high school non-readers and that the problem has never come up in the regular national conferences.
They heaped the blame for the problem on the elementary school principals because, according to them, the principals attest that the candidates have completed the requirements for graduation and therefore it is they who should a ensure that the pupils could read.
When this correspondent asked if after information on high school non-readers have come out the DepEd has already issued a directive to its field offices to see to it that no school allows non-readers to graduate, they could not answer.
Early last year, the Department of Education (DepEd) Kalinga and Tabuk City divisions raised brows when the presence of Grade 7 non-readers in some schools in their areas was reported in the Manila Times and this paper.
In the ensuing months, evidence that the situation in the two divisions was not isolated surfaced.
These included the riveting documentary about how the teachers in the Sauyo High School in Quezon City were coping with the roomful of Grade 7 in their school who were either frustration level readers or total non-readers which was aired by the GMA 7 on September 1, 2018.**By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

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