Reasons DepEd not heeding PIDS suggestion on non-readers
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
In its policy note “Pressures on public school teachers and implications on quality” it issued in February 2019, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) recommended to the Department of Education (DepEd) to stop the practice of sending non-readers to high school. Although it generally heeds advices of the state think tank, the DepEd never acknowledged much less acted on the recommendation until now which indicates that the agency has no intention whatsoever to free the secondary of illiteracy.
The stoppage of the exodus of non-readers to high school would have triggered a chain reaction towards the eventual restoration of the crippled reading program of the DepEd. With high schools now given clear justification to reject non-readers, and not wanting their graduates marooned putting their schools and themselves on the spot, elementary authorities would have been forced to tighten their quality controls. The Grade 6 teachers would have turned the heat on the Grade 5 teachers to stop passing on non-readers least they be the ones left holding the bag at the end of the school year and so on down the grades to Grade 1.
One of the most crucial factors sustaining the shocking practice of mass producing non-readers in our schools is elementary schools can get the reading laggards off their hands by passing them on to high school. Shut that door and the DepEd will start to think twice before passing non-readers to the next grade. High schools have no choice but to accept non-readers as they have no clear cut basis to reject them what with the absence of an explicit DepEd policy to that effect.
Too, heeding the suggestion would have decisively helped in the preparations of the country for the next round of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as the yearly waves of non-readers rolling into high school would have been stopped in SY 2019-2020.
As I have shown in my letter to the editor “Non-readers in high school” in the August 24, 2021 issue of this paper, it was highly likely that there were non-readers and struggling readers in the Philippine contingent to the 2018 PISA. The evidence I have provided are consistent with the results of the assessment showing that over 80 percent of our examinees failed to attain the minimum level of proficiency in reading.
Had our 2018 PISA batch not been dragged down by the performance of non-readers and struggling readers, we could have easily avoided the cellar the fact that the Dominican Republic only edged us by 2 points in Reading Literacy.
Regarding the reasons DepEd is pretending not to be aware of the PIDS recommendation, I strongly believe that it is based on the following considerations:
First, ordering the elementary schools to stop sending non-readers to high school would be a clear admission that DepEd had bungled its own reading program which its officials do not have the humility nor maturity to make. Three years after the media exposed the then unthinkable presence of non-readers in high school and even after the publication of the findings of the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA_PLM) that 27 percent of our Grade 5 pupils cannot read based on the SEA-PLM definition of reading literacy, DepEd still shamelessly pretends illiteracy is the least of its problems. The DepEd is aware implementing the PIDS recommendation would shatter its facade.
Second, heeding the PIDS advice would distort the distribution of the population of the students because going by the afore-cited findings of the SEA-PLM, around a quarter of Grade 6 pupils will be retained with the number to be taken away from the usual population of Grade 7. The resultant scenario will be a nightmare to the DepEd not so much because of the plight of the students who will be affected and the disruption in the normal operations of schools but the negative attention the spectacle will draw to the agency which would be even more massive than that generated by the World Bank report.
It is incumbent upon the DepEd to explain why it snubbed the well-meaning and practical recommendation of the PIDS when it could effectively end the reading crisis which has gripped the country’s public basic education sector for more than a decade and has already embarrassed us thrice internationally. Is the agency so callous it is not yet through sending Filipino children who could not read and who could hardly read to international assessments?**