99% of students got passing marks? Senators doubt DepEd report
MANILA, Philippines — About 99 percent of students nationwide obtained passing grades in the first quarter of the school year where distance learning became the norm due to the pandemic, according to the Department of Education (DepEd), but two senators were unconvinced.
A DepEd report presented on Wednesday to the Senate on the performance of Grades 1 to 12 students showed that more than 14.5 million learners obtained passing marks, while more than 126,000 got failing grades.
In terms of performance by region, Western Visayas garnered the highest percentage of 99.94, while Cordillera posted the lowest passing percentage of 96.92. But senators raised doubts about the report presented by DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio, wondering how the department arrived at such a “surprising” percentage of students getting passing marks.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education which is looking into the impact of the pandemic on the school system, pressed DepEd for details on how it was able to gather its data.
“I don’t even know how to interpret [these findings] that 99 percent passed, and almost no one failed even with the challenges of distance learning. Does this mean [the students] are absorbing and learning their lessons?” Gatchalian said.
San Antonio, the undersecretary for curriculum and instruction, said in response: “Yes, if we base the interpretation on the grades, the learners seem to be learning.”
“You don’t seem to be convinced yourself,” Gatchalian said.
The senator went on to cite what he considered the “more realistic” results obtained by the DepEd in Valenzuela City, his hometown, which showed that an average of 48 to 55 percent passed the achievement test administered among high school students.
“I am happy that almost all of them passed, but we also need to carefully assess where are their weaknesses so we will know our points of intervention,” Gatchalian added. “I am having headaches trying to reconcile the 99 percent you have and the 55 percent for Valenzuela.”
According to San Antonio, the high rate of passers may be the result of the adjustments made by DepEd and the teachers to allow delinquent students to cope. “There are instances where students who, instead of getting a failing grade, would just be marked `incomplete’ and will be given additional time to finish the required tasks or outputs,” he said.
The DepEd official also clarified that during the shift to distance learning modes, students were rated based only on tasks or written outputs since there were no periodic exams.
Leila Arreola, the director of the Bureau of Learning Delivery, an agency under the DepEd, said the assessments were based on tasks given to students such, as accomplishing written or performance outputs.
Best time for honesty
Community quarantines imposed since March last year have forced the country’s education system to suspend in-person classes and switch to distance learning, with millions of students relying on online instruction, “self-learning modules” delivered to their homes or lessons broadcast on radio and TV.
Sen. Nancy Binay also doubted the DepEd report, citing reports that the students’ parents or other adults in a household were the ones answering the tests on the modules.
She also urged the agency to investigate what Gatchalian described in a March 3 hearing as “Sagot for Sale” (Answer for Sale) racket, wherein parents purportedly pay others to answer their children’s modules.
In response, San Antonio said DepEd has no control over parents who answer their children’s assessment tests and could not force them to cooperate. “We have made it very clear that this [situation of distance learning] is the best time to teach honesty,” he said.
Longer school year hit
Also on Wednesday, the youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) assailed the DepEd’s decision to adjust the school calendar.
“It’s dumbfounding how the [DepEd] extended the suffering experienced by students, teachers, and workers undergoing this atrocious scheme of distance learning,” Spark said in a statement.
The DepEd on Tuesday announced that the academic year will end on July 10 instead of June 11 to allow schools to address “learning gaps” and conduct “intensive intervention and remediation activities” for learners. Classes began in October last year.
“These learning gaps are attributable to reduced economic opportunities at home and substantial loss of live contact with teachers,” Secretary Leonor Briones said.
But Spark argued that the extension of the academic year and DepEd’s earlier proposal to shorten the two-month-long summer break into two weeks only exposed the flaws of an “output-based’’ system that had taken its toll on students.
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