Millions of non-readers under Mother Tongue policy (Second of three parts)

By Estanislao Albano, Jr.

“ We also appeal to the DepEd and the other exponents of the MTB-MLE to refrain from inaccurate assignment of responsibility for disasters in our basic education which clearly proceed from the MTB-MLE Curriculum. Such practice could mislead people and it could result in wrong solutions. ”

Note: This is the full text of the statement of the Cordillera Advocates for Real Education (CARE) during the Zoom meeting of the House Bill No. 6405 technical working group on March 19, 2021 delivered by this columnist in his capacity as spokesman of the group. Just like the position statement he read in the Mother Tongue policy forum held by the DepEd and the USAID on February 22, 2021 which was earlier serialized here, the paper was unchallenged. By the way, House Bill No. 6405 authored by Baguio City Congressman Marquez Go seeks the abolition of the Mother Tongue policy.
Director Andaya mentioned that the deterioration in reading literacy and numeracy preexisted the implementation of the MTB-MLE and that with regards to non-readers, the problem is due to the facts that reading programs have not been fully advocated and the reading culture has not been instilled in schools.
We agree that the non-reader problem preceded the MTB-MLE. But it is also true that despite the fact that the foremost promise of the MTB-MLE under DepEd Order No. 74, series of 2009, is to quicken the learning of reading, the problem escalated horrendously during the implementation of the new language policy as shown by the finding of the SEA-PLM that 27 percent of our Grade 5 pupils cannot read based on the programmes definition of reading literacy (SEA-PLM 2019 Main Regional Report Children Learning in 6 Southeast Asian countries, Pages 41-44
Let me bring home the meaning of this SEA-PLM finding:
First, according to its 2014 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), Indonesia had 5.9 percent non-reader incidence in Grade 2 that year.
Indonesia 2014: The National Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Snapshot of School Management Effectiveness (SSME) Survey On the other hand, we have 27 percent non-reader rate in Grade 5 in 2019. Even with that wide gap in our reading literacy, Indonesia only placed five rungs ahead of us in the 2018 PISA which gives us an idea how deep the hole we must climb out from.
Second, on the basis of 27 percent reading rate for our Grade 5 pupils reported by the SEA-PLM, it can be safely assumed that the non-readers in our elementary level starting from Grade 4, the grade level where under the Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP), no child who has not mastered basic literacy skills should be promoted to, and given the fact that public elementary enrolment exceeds 10M, the incidence translates to millions of pupils.
We do not agree with Director Andaya that it is just a matter of shortcomings in the advocacy of reading programs which has made our schools hotbeds of illiteracy. The problem is rooted on reading policy blunders of the DepEd.
Before the DepEd tinkered with the traditional reading policies primarily the No Read, No Move Policy under which no Grade 1 pupil could pass unless he could read, by changing the target to zero non-reader in Grade 4, there practically were no non-reader in Grade 2 even in public schools. They read in English and Filipino in Grade 1. Now compare that with the MTB-MLE era where high schools are invaded by non-readers and those who are lucky to learn to read in English only do so in Grade 3.
After the DepEd changed the target for children to acquire reading literacy from Grade 1 to Grade 3 in 2001, it went further by not implementing the new reading cut off thus in effect, it unleashed illiteracy on our basic education up to high school because with the threat of being retained if they cannot read no longer there, many school children take the learning of the fundamental skill for granted. In 2012, the DepEd dealt the finishing blow with the K to 12 Curriculum starting the learning of reading in English in the second semester of Grade 2.
But the advocates of the MTB-MLE cannot invoke the refusal of the DepEd to enforce a reading cut off for the failure of the new language policy to fulfill its promise for quicker learning of reading simply because before the Grade 3 cut off falls, the policy already had thrice the time with learners than it took the old language policies to teach children to read and it is supposed to make the learning of reading quicker. What do we need the MTB-MLE for when its promise to quicken reading can be negated which means the previous language policies are after all quicker in imparting the basic skill?
Honorable Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the best way to see how the unsound and disastrous reading policies of the DepEd and the MTB-MLE have undermined reading literacy in public schools is to observe the private schools. They never abandoned the traditional No Read, No Move Policy and they practically have no non-readers in Grade 2. Private schools rejected the MTB-MLE and their Grade 1 pupils read in English which of course is very much quicker than under the MTB-MLE.
Please also try to recall if back when you were in the elementary, you had classmates in Grade 2 who could not read in English.
For those who could not clearly remember if they had classmates in Grade 2 who could not read, a DepEd data document cited in the The Philippines country case study by Rhona B. Caoli-Rodriguez 2007, published in the UNESCO Digital Library states that the nationwide non-reader incidence in 2005 and 2006 were 1.74 percent and 2.56 percent, respectively.
Considering the difference between the rates of the two years and working back, it is safe to assume that when the DepEd decided to get rid of the No Read, No Move Policy, which kept Grade 2 onwards free of illiteracy, in 2001, the non-reader incidence was negligible or even nil.
The preceding is also our answer to the DepEds insulting and baseless policy that todays Filipino children cannot learn to read in English in Grade 1 and the best they could now wish for is to read in the language in Grade 3. Up to 20 years ago when the DepEd decided to dismantle the time honored No Read, No Move Policy, Filipino public school children were reading in English in Grade 1 and there were no non-readers in Grade 2.
We in the CARE count the scrapping of the No Read, No Move Policy as the most shocking and disastrous blunder ever committed in the history of Philippine education. It was a mortal blow to reading literacy and we all know, where reading literacy goes, so goes the other subjects and its not exaggeration to say the entire education of the child. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) confirms the high correlation between performance in reading with success in other subjects as follows: Reading is a prerequisite for successful performance in any school subject. By incorporating the three literacy domains of Mathematics, Reading and Science, PISA 2000 provides information on the relationships between the domains. The correlation between the Reading and Mathematics scores in PISA is 0.81, and the correlation between Reading and Science scores is 0.86. (Reading for change: Performance and engagement across countries, OECD, Page 15. **(To be continued)

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