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Senate should look into worsening reading crisis in PH

/ 05:00 AM June 06, 2019

Whoever will end up as chair of  the Senate committee on education (“3 senators want to head education committee—Sotto,” Inquirer.net, 5/25/19) should restore the body to relevance quickly.

During the watch of Sen. Francis Escudero, the committee was not even aware — or, worse, was aware but just did not care — about one of the most pressing education concerns: the growing number of nonreaders in high school.

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How could the problem not have come to the attention of the committee?

In its  recent study on the problems of teachers that impact on the quality of education, “Pressures on public school teachers and implications on quality,” the state think tank Philippine Institute of Development Studies called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to actively discourage the practice of elementary schools of allowing nonreaders to graduate.

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It is a puzzle that the committee and its staff members missed the contents of the documentary “Pag-asa sa Pagbasa” (“I-Witness,” GMA 7, 9/1/18), or perhaps thought they  were not worth looking into.

The documentary, which spotlighted Grade 7 students at the Sauyo High School in Novaliches, Quezon City, last school year who were classified as either frustration-level readers or nonreaders, was riveting to ordinary citizens and viewers. But apparently, it did not catch the interest of the committee.

It is possible that the dismissive attitude of the members of the committee springs from the erroneous assumption that a high school nonreader is normal and is of no big deal in the country.

If this is the case, then it only proves that the senators in charge of education matters did not do their assignment. Simple research would have revealed that  the problem only began when the DepEd scrapped the “No Read, No Move” policy for Grade 1 and replaced it with the “zero nonreader in Grade 4” policy in 2001. While the old policy was in effect, nonreaders in Grade 2 were a rarity.

Research is not necessary to establish the gravity of the problem. The members only need to recall if there were Grade 2 pupils who could not read during their time.

The country cannot afford another Senate committee on education that either takes lightly or, for whatever reason, refuses to deal with the markedly eroded ability of the DepEd to teach reading, because, obviously, education cannot proceed unless a child first acquires the skill to read.

Moreover, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the DepEd continues to pretend all is well in this respect, which means  there is no hope for solutions to the problem from within the agency. In fact, until now, the DepEd leadership has yet to make any public statement on the festering reading crisis among the country’s young.

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ESTANISLAO ALBANO JR.

[email protected]

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TAGS: Estanislao Albano Jr., Inquirer letters, reading crisis, Senate
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