Crisis of illiteracy (1) | Inquirer Opinion
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Crisis of illiteracy (1)

/ 05:04 AM January 27, 2020

I’m no longer surprised why the Philippines was assessed as having the lowest quality of education in the world recently. This was also my sentiment after participating in an education summit called by a municipality in Cagayan Valley last Jan. 18.

We may recall that last December, Filipino 15-year-olds were reported to have fared worst in reading and second-lowest in both math and science among students from 79 countries. This was the result of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


The education summit I attended was organized by municipal officials of Alcala, Cagayan because they wanted, first, to identify the problems, and, second, to help find solutions to the deteriorating quality of our education.

Municipal officials invited 20 to 40 participants for each of the following groups: school heads who had administrative supervision over schools; master teachers who teach in the classrooms; student leaders and Sangguniang Kabataan representatives; and barangay captains and heads of Parents and Teachers Associations. The elementary and high school institutions of the various barangays were represented.


Each group sat down to identify the problems and solutions, from their respective points of view. They then presented their findings in the summit plenary. Reactors, among whom I was one, took turns asking questions to dig deeper into the root causes of the problems and to test the solutions recommended.

The participants were very appreciative of the summit because of the chance to freely unburden themselves on the problems that have long bugged their school communities. I felt a strong need for the Department of Education (DepEd) to hire independent evaluators to do a similar assessment because teachers and students are afraid of unburdening themselves before their superiors.

I had several takeaways from the summit that education officials, policymakers, and philanthropists will hopefully find useful.

Three years after the K-to-12 program was implemented—making mandatory kindergarten plus 12 years of preuniversity education—the government has woefully failed to provide enough books for the new curriculums for all class levels.

The very depressing ratio of students to books is three-is-to-one (3:1), which means that three students are pitifully sharing one book. Percentage-wise, only 33 percent of all students have books. If we are wondering why Filipino students are adjudged as the worst in reading literacy, the dismal inadequacy of books is obviously a major culprit.

The acute shortage of books is also a huge reason for another appalling revelation: Approximately 15 percent of students in elementary and early high school levels are classified as “nonreaders.” It’s highly disturbing that students are being continuously elevated from one level to the next even if they’ve not learned how to read and comprehend.

One major complaint against students is that they’re addicted to the computer game “Mobile Legends,” and everyone agrees this must be curbed. But how can students be weaned away from this addiction if they have no alternatives to while away their idle time like having access to books and libraries?


There’s a DepEd web portal called Learning Resources Management and Development System, but the access given by this resource to teachers for the soft copies of the student books is a mirage because teachers are not given adequate funds to print out copies for all their students.

The severe scarcity of books among our students is a serious crisis that must be addressed with urgency—with an immediate reallocation of public funds for the printing of books and the building of libraries.

We must work fast to eradicate the crisis of illiteracy in our country because so many of our critical problems as a nation are rooted in the deficiencies and dysfunction of our educational system. (To be continued)—————Comments to [email protected]

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TAGS: DepEd, education, education summit, Filipino students, illiteracy, K-12 program, literacy, math, OECD, Philippines, Pisa, Reading
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