DepEd pressed to bare national data on reading
MANILA, Philippines — A teachers’ group called on the Department of Education (DepEd) on Tuesday to release the nationwide results of an inventory that measured students’ reading level after data from DepEd in Bicol initially showed more than 70, 000 pupils in Grades 1 and 6 in the region cannot read.
“Education Secretary Leonor Briones could be right in saying that reports on struggling readers in Bicol is unfair for the Bicolanos as the situation could be true in the whole of the country, or worse in poorer regions and localities,” said the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).
The group said a detailed public report on the annual tests, which were administered last year under the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI), was necessary for DepEd to have an “honest assessment of our educational system.”
“Especially as our call for the review of the K-12 program has finally gained attention from the government, all indicators should be laid down,” ACT said. “The development of our students is a national concern.”
At a press conference on Monday, DepEd expressed wariness about releasing the nationwide data because the Phil-IRI pretests were not uniform across all regions. Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said this lack of standardized tools meant results could not be used for policymaking.
“This is a teacher-administered test, unlike the standardized National Achievement Test that students are required to take,” Malaluan told reporters. “The pretests in schools are all different, that’s why while we do have the data, it would be difficult to put these out.”
DepEd in Bicol clarified on Monday that the number of students who could not read in the region, placed at 70,000, was based on an “initial and unvalidated report” from Schools Division Offices at the start of the school year.
Based on DepEd’s validated data, 20,587 pupils in Grades 4 to 6 who took the English test, and 18,143 in Grades 3 to 6 who took the Filipino test could be considered “struggling readers,” said Gilbert Sadsad, DepEd director in Bicol.
In his statement on Monday, Sadsad said the Grade 4 to 6 pupils who took the English test were the same ones who took the Filipino test.
A total of 1.61 million were enrolled in public schools in the region, 521,676 of whom are in Grades 3 to 6, according to him.
He said Phil-IRI, an informal reading inventory consisting of graded passages designed to determine a student’s performance in oral reading, silent reading and listening comprehension, covered only Grades 3 to 6.
ACT chair Joselyn Martinez said DepEd should not be “onion-skinned” about the results and “truthfully identify and address the factors that contribute to the declining quality of Philippine education if it is sincere in its no learner left behind slogan.”In a statement, the teachers’ union, which has 180,000 members, said a more congested curriculum had significantly shrunk the time allotted to honing the reading skills of students.
ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro urged DepEd to listen to teachers, education support personnel, unions, students and parents for their investigation of the K-12, or the Enhanced Basic Education program.
ACT was not the only group of educators to chime in.
Benjo Basas, chair of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition, said it was unfortunate that Bicol was thrust into the spotlight as results from that region could be “reflective of the entire system.”
“The problem is that teachers are forced to pass their students because it will reflect negatively on the school if there are several children who fail or repeat grade levels,” Basas said.
Other perennial issues like large class sizes, shortages in learning materials and low teachers’ pay contributed to students’ troubles with reading, he added.
In Legazpi City, international child rights NGO Educo commended DepEd Bicol for acknowledging the reality of struggling readers and for its efforts to deal with the crisis amid the challenges in poverty reduction nutrition, and hazards from natural disasters.
Poverty remains the ultimate factor holding back Bicolano children from fulfilling their rights to quality and inclusive education, according to Educo’ s Child Rights Situational Analysis from 2018.
In a statement, Educo said results of the Phil-IRI study should provide ample guidance and inform its work with DepEd moving forward.
“What is important at this point is to accept the reality of the growing number of nonreaders and/or struggling readers; and to realize that the problem is not confined to Bicol alone,’’ said Educo country director Olga Rodriguez.—With reports from Matthew Reysio-Cruz, Melvin Gascon and Ma. April Mier-Mijares
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