70,000 Bicol pupils can’t read – DepEd
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines — More than 70,000 elementary students in Bicol cannot read in both English and Filipino, according to the Department of Education (DepEd), citing initial results of a 2019 study.
Of this number, 18,143 are pupils in Grades 3 to 6, data released by Grace Rabelas, education supervisor for curriculum and learning management division of DepEd Bicol, showed.
Rabelas said the rest of what she called “nonreaders” were in Grades 1 to 2.
The data were based on results of pretests administered by the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) between July and August 2019.
The finding is another proof that the Philippines’ ranking last in reading among 79 countries and economies in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa) is not a fluke.
Rabelas said DepEd had “called the attention of the regional monitoring evaluation and adjustment division” to come up with the basis for determining the reading abilities of lower grades and the tools that were used to come up with the results.
Phil-IRI, an initiative of the department’s Bureau of Elementary Education, is an informal reading inventory consisting of graded passages designed to determine a student’s performance in oral reading, silent reading and listening comprehension.
It is anchored on the flagship program of DepEd’s “Every Child A Reader Program,” which seeks to make every Filipino child able to communicate proficiently in both English and Filipino through effective reading instruction.
In the wake of Phil-IRI’s findings, the DepEd regional office has directed all teachers and school heads to give more emphasis on their reading proficiency program.
“Every learner should not be left behind, particularly in reading, and that is why we are promoting the 5Bs (Bawat Batang Bicolano Bihasang Bumasa) in every school,” Gilbert Sadsad, DepEd regional director, said in a press conference at the agency’s office here on Feb. 10.
Sadsad said the program was also aimed at meeting the department’s challenge that every Filipino student should know how to read.
Asked about factors that led to a lot of students becoming nonreaders, Rabelas said: “It could be lack of materials. It could be also there are teachers who don’t have skills to teach the proper way or manner of reading, or the child has special need or visually impaired. That’s why he is having a hard time or difficulty in learning how to read.”
Bicol has a poverty incidence (26.8 percent in 2018) higher than the national average (16.6 percent), according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The region also has a high malnutrition rate. Thirty-six percent of children 5 to 10 years old were stunted, while 39 percent of 10 to 19 years old were also stunted in 2015, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.
Promotion to next level
Mayflor Marie Jumamil, DepEd Bicol information officer, said teachers were working hard to ensure that all 1.8 million students in the region could read.
“There are lots of interventions being done by teachers to solve the problem and we make sure that a student should not be promoted to the next level unless the student is fully ready,” Jumamil said.
In Albay province, Nora Velasco, a Grade 6 teacher at Gui¬nobatan West Central School (GWCS), said she was strict with her students when it came to reading.
“Teaching them how to read is very important, especially because they are graduating pupils. In fact, I’m frank with them that I will not pass them if they can’t read,” Velasco said.
She said she employed peer teaching (buddy reader) in reading, in which good readers are paired with a non- or slow readers in order for them to learn and enrich their reading ability.
“If we don’t know how to read, we can’t graduate and if we can’t graduate we can’t find work and with that there will be no good future for us,” said Ariana Caña, a Grade 6 student at GWCS.
In Legazpi City’s Pagasa National High School, 37 out of more than 600 Grade 7 students did not know how to read, according to its principal, Jeremy Cruz.
“The problem was already solved. What we did was to organize one class for the non- and slow readers with a very passionate, dedicated, competent and patient teacher so that the interventions and the activi¬ties will be properly executed,” Cruz said.
In a stark display of the national scope of the problem, 15-year-old Filipino students who took the 2018 Pisa, administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), had an average score of 340 on the reading portion of the test.
The score was well below the OECD average of 487 points, and even more worrying, less than one-fifth of Filipino students achieved a Level 2 score, the minimum proficiency level.
The results showed that even private school students in the Philippines underperformed, as they averaged 390 points for reading, a score that was almost 100 points below the overall average.
Test-takers in Metro Manila, Central Visayas and Southern Mindanao had the highest average scores in reading for Luzon, the Visayas and Minda-nao, respectively.
Students in rural areas, on average, scored 42 points less than those in urban communities.
According to DepEd, the results indicated a majority of Filipino students “cannot identify the main idea in a piece of text of moderate length and may have difficulty in making comparisons based on single features of text.”
‘Deceptive’ literacy rate
The results also underscored the deceptive simplicity of the country’s literacy rate of 98 percent.
DepEd has launched a program called READ to LEAD—part of its wider “Bawat Bata Bumabasa” initiative to enhance reading literacy—that aims to develop better intervention practices, retrain teachers on the subject and enhance existing reading programs.
The department has also visited schools with high reading scores to incorporate practices there in wider education reforms. —WITH A REPORT FROM MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ