Lenient DepEd policies led to Pisa debacle
The article “Palace takes ‘constructive view’ of PH dismal performance in math, science, reading” (Inquirer.net, 12/5/19), quoted presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo as saying, “education officials are on the right track as we address the issues and gaps in the basic education sector.” However, too much trust on the judgment of the Department of Education (DepEd) can be disastrous to the country, especially now that education has placed the Philippines in the glare of the wrong spotlight.
What happened under the administrations of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III is very instructive. Granted that Arroyo approved replacing the “No Read, No Move”bulwark of Philippine education with the alien “Zero Non-reader in Grade 4”policy in 2001 (and which turned out to be a major blunder), DepEd officials did not update her on the emergence of nonreaders in first year high school a few years later — an unprecedented and unthinkable phenomenon before that time.
From 2010 to 2016, even as the DepEd dutifully mouthed Aquino’s agenda, “Every Child a Reader by Grade 1 by 2016,” they did nothing toward achieving the target. The DepEd did not even bother to tell Aquino that existing reading regimen policies and likewise the K-to-12 curriculum, which was developed during that time, were not aligned with the agenda. The K-to-12 puts reading competency in Grades 1 and 2, so how could children be reading in Grade 1?
In addition, despite the “Every Child a Reader by Grade 1 by 2016” [tagline the DepEd continued with the “mass promotion” practice that was initiated sometime in the early 2000s, where the retention of pupils regardless of performance was discouraged or even prohibited. The total disregard of the Aquino administration’s agenda and the continuing observance of the “mass promotion”de facto policy had the effect of worsening the reading problem, as the numberof nonreaders in middle and secondary schools escalated while the administration then believed that by the time they exited, Grade 1 pupils would be reading.
When President Duterte took over, the DepEd people just changed the reading slogan to “Every Child a Reader at His/Her Grade Level,” but there was no attempt to correct the wrong policies and practices that had lowered the reading proficiency levels of schoolchildren and further diminished the quality of education. One need not be a rocket scientist to see that the failure of the three presidents to check if their education secretaries were doing the right thing contributed to the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) debacle, as it cannot be disputed that children who could hardly read are not expected to score high in reading tests, or in any other test for that matter.
Mr. Duterte still has a chance to turn things around and give the country a better shot in the next Pisa if he even just asks the DepEd to explain why there are nonreaders in high school, when the curriculum places the learning of reading in Grades 1 and 2. More importantly, he can order the strict implementation of the K-to-12 reading cut-off. On the other hand, if he continues to maintain a hands-off policy on DepEd affairs, deferring to Secretary Leonor Briones all the time just like Arroyo and Aquino foolishly did with their own education secretaries, Mr. Duterte will also be known as the president who did not care if Filipino children could read or not.
ESTANISLAO C. ALBANO JR.
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