What DepEd Secretary Briones is not telling Duterte and the country
Based on his praise for Education Secretary Leonor Briones for calling out the World Bank (WB) on its report describing the sorry state of our basic education which she claimed insulted and shamed the Philippines (“Duterte welcomes World Bank apology, expects more accurate education report,” Inquirer.net, 7/12/21), President Duterte has full confidence in the fitness of the former to head the education agency.
In fact, he swallowed hook, line, and sinker all she told him about her grievance, because despite the Department of Education’s (DepEd) acceptance of the reports from the Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM)—the bases of the offending report—he said he hoped “a more accurate report based on the latest data will be made.”
I believe though that until now, Mr. Duterte is in the dark about these:
1) The “latest data” Briones has been floating relative to the WB report controversy could be the near perfect results of the distance learning in SY 2020–2021 which are fraudulent since in many cases, the modules were accomplished by parents and other older people, not by the students themselves. If the DepEd foists the said data, we will become a laughingstock because we will be the only country in the world whose education quality improved during the pandemic. On the other hand, if Briones has favorable data from SY 2018–2019, it would be soundly contradicted by the appalling results of the TIMSS and SEA-PLM, both of which were conducted in 2019. As for SY 2019–2020, the DepEd itself asserts that reforms take time to effect, and the Sulong EduKalidad reform program was introduced only in December 2019.
2) The number of illiterates in our elementary and high schools ballooned to millions during the Duterte administration based on the finding of the SEA-PLM that 27 percent of our Grade 5 pupils cannot read and the fact that we have more than 10 million elementary school enrollment. This could have been avoided had Briones not embraced the practice during the time of Secretary Armin Luistro of promoting learners who cannot read even until high school, known as “mass promotion.”
3) Another cause of the reading mess is the Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) which starts the teaching of reading in English, our local and international test language, in the second semester of Grade 2 compared with Grade 1 in the old curriculum.
4) Given the high correlation between reading literacy and performance in other subjects, the practice of “mass promotion” was our foremost undoing in the Pisa, TIMSS, and SEA-PLM because of the large number of non-readers and struggling readers among our examinees who naturally were not ready to take any exams for that matter. In the case of the TIMSS and the SEA-PLM, the MTB-MLE compounded the situation because the ones among our students who could read were reading in the test language more than one grade level late.
Briones cannot wash her hands of our terrible showing in international student assessments because she could have stopped the “mass promotion” practice and corrected the MTB-MLE/K-to-12 curriculum beginning reading program, but opted to own them instead.
5) As I have pointed out in my letter “Why is DepEd defending and continuing errors of the past?” (7/15/21), the Sulong EduKalidad targets Grade 3 to make every learner a reader, rendering the vaunted education reform program of the government toothless against the raging illiteracy epidemic in our schools. The target cannot also be mentioned in the same breath with the mandate of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 for our education to be globally competitive, since other countries make their pupils read in Grade 1 or even earlier.
If Mr. Duterte’s trust in Briones remains unshaken after learning of the foregoing, then his name will forever be linked with that of the most inept, irresponsible, irrational, ignorant, and immature education secretary this country has ever known. The same is true if he remains unaware of these realities, he being the president of the republic.
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