EdCom II should probe, stop rampant mass promotion immediately
Three months after two major education advocacy groups namely the Philippine Business for Education and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers denounced mass promotion or the practice of advancing students to the next grade without requiring them to meet specific academic standards, there is yet no concrete move on the part of the concerned entities to address the issue.
If the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EdCom II) follows the lead of co-chair Sherwin Gatchalian, most likely the action that will be taken by the commission which happens to be the most logical body to address the issue will be futile. That’s because sans full information on the nature, history, rationale, authors, the extent of the damage of the practice among other facts on the subject, Gatchalian has already declared that the solution is for the Department of Education (DepEd) “to implement effective intervention programs to help struggling learners catch up.” This is a blunder because the precise reason mass promotion exists is because DepEd refuses to retain failing students.
Even Vietnam with its vastly successful education system has a Grade 1 repetition rate of 2.7 percent and 0.8 percent average repetition rate across the primary grades as of 2018 (Vietnam National Education Profile 2018 Update).
Gatchalian holds up as good practice the summer reading camps being conducted by his hometown Valenzuela City to teach nonreaders and “frustrated” readers to read. He does not mention the fact that before the DepEd scrapped the “No Read, No Move” policy under which Grade 1 pupils could not be promoted to Grade 2 unless they could read in 2001 signaling the advent of mass promotion, these summer reading camps were unheard of because all Grade 2 pupils could read.
If EdCom II just bothers to investigate, it would uncover the following damning facts:
- Without mass promotion, instead of the staggering 90.9 percent, we would have zero learning poverty (the portion of 10-year-olds who could not read and understand simple texts) because under the “No Read, No Move” policy, children start reading in Grade 1 and therefore have enough time to improve their comprehension before they reach Grade 5, the grade where 10-year-olds are usually in.
- Without mass promotion, we would have done better in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and the 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM). Pisa found that 80 percent of our 15-year-olds were incompetent readers. The SEA-PLM found that 27 percent of our Grade 5 pupils could not read based on its definition of reading literacy. If not for mass promotion, all our takers in these assessments would have been reading starting in Grade 1 and for sure were already able readers when they took the tests.
- The DepEd is the author and perpetuator of mass promotion. First, the agency dismantled the “No Read, No Move” policy in 2001 through the introduction of the Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP) which reset the reading cut-off to Grade 3 (DepEd Memorandum No. 324, series of 2004). As proven by our 90.9 percent learning poverty rate and the 27 percent nonreader incidence in the SEA-PLM, the DepEd had also set aside the ECARP reading cut-off.
- Second, from the results of its Philippine Informal Reading Inventory reading assessment test, the DepEd is aware of the presence of nonreaders but it does not stop their promotion to the next grade, in effect approving their illegitimate advancement.
- Given the ECARP Grade 3 reading cut-off, the reading literacy findings of the Pisa and SEA-PLM and the country’s learning poverty rate are smoking guns that mass promotion is rampant.
EdCom II should realize that even the leading education systems in the world will collapse the moment they start automatically passing nonreaders all the way to high school as the DepEd has been doing for more than two decades now.