Home Topic Education Gov’t urged to resolve growing number of non-readers

Gov’t urged to resolve growing number of non-readers

THERAPY. Loakan Elementary School students draw and write their experiences about the September 15 disaster in their community in the mining town of Itogon, Benguet. Photo courtesy of Duday Maranan

BAGUIO CITY — Residents of Tabuk City in Kalinga started a signature campaign urging the government to address the growing incidence of non-readers and frustration-level readers in public schools around the country.

“If the Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP) and the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) are properly implemented, there would be no non-reader beyond Grade 3,” said the petition.

The petitioners intend to send the urgent message via Senate Basic Education Committee Chairman Sherwin Gatchalian.

“Under Department of Education (DepEd) Order No. 021, series of 2019, setting forth the policy guidelines for the K-12, reading in English is included among the competencies to be attained in Grade 2,” the plea read.

Taking note that most schoolchildren could read in Grade 3, the petitioners asked why the DepEd cannot successfully teach “all mentally normal children how to read at the grade prescribed by the curriculum when it was able to make them all read in Grade 1 in the past?”

The signatories told the senator, “we believe the breakdown in the effectiveness of the DepEd to teach children to read started with the decision to scrap the ‘No Read, No Move’ policy for Grade 1 back in 2001.”

“There is no justification whatsoever for young Filipinos to learn the skill at a much later stage in their educational journey, especially so that under the current curriculum, they are supposed to be able to read in Grade 2,’ they added.

In the 2018 Phil-IRI Manual, authorities removed the “non-reader” category in the reading profile and report forms. Earlier manuals defined the term as “a pupil who is unable to recognize and sound out letter-sound connections for single consonants.”

Earlier, Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio acknowledged that DepEd is aware of the presence of non-readers in high school. The admission stemmed from the February report of the Philippine Institute for Developments Studies (PIDS), telling the department to discourage the practice among public elementary schools of sending non-readers to high school.

They explained that the ECARP intends to make every child an independent reader by Grade 3, and the Phil-IRI, a nationally validated reading proficiency assessment tool, is designed to strengthen the implementation of the ECARP.

Failed K-12 curriculum

Though the education department had seemingly failed to see, petitioners claimed that the presence of non-readers and frustration level readers in high school means that programs for reading and the K-12 Curriculum are failing.

Retired Provincial Cooperative Officer Robert Salabao, Sr. said there are non-readers among the first and second-year high school students in Tabuk City.

Since one of the bases for the performance rating of teachers is the failure rate, he suspects that educators allow the undeserving to pass because nobody is to be retained.

A classroom teacher in the late 70’s and 80’s, Salabao recommended using the Mother Tongue subject period for practical reading for those lagging.

He believes that “Mother Tongue is not really essential as part of the curriculum,” insisting that, “why (do) children still have to be taught the Mother Tongue in school when it’s the language at home adding that priority language is actually English and which therefore should be learned in the grades.”

Lutheran minister Luis Aoas, also a petitioner, blamed the DepEd for the overall erosion of the quality of education. He attributed the degradation to the confusion brought by the frequent changes in the curriculum and the system.

According to him, during the time when the curriculum only revolved around reading, writing, and arithmetic or 3Rs, children were proficient.

While he recognized the need for change, the clergy pointed out that, “when you keep on changing, the system is weakened as people no longer know which is which and things begin to look like experiments.”

“We change for the better, but frequent change could be disastrous,” he underscored.

Aoas’ wife, Victoria, who used to work for the DepEd, observed that each time there is a new Education Secretary, the curriculum changes.

Remedial sessions costly

Petitioners are hoping that the Basic Education Committee led by Gatchalian will take steps to address the reading crisis. They believe the senator is acquainted with the non-reader headache and difficulty of resolving the problem, being the former mayor and representative of Valenzuela City.

The city was the first LGU to discover and take action on the non-reader problem when, in 2014, officials found that eight of 10 Grade 6 pupils in the city were frustration level readers and one of every ten a non-reader. It costed Valenzuela City P300M to place remedy the problem. 

However, last summer, after four years of giving full support to the reading program of the DepEd in the city, the LGU still conducted reading skills training. According to the petitioners, there remained “213 non-readers, 3,725 frustrated readers and 14,712 instructional readers” from Grades 2 to 6 from the city’s public schools taking the remedial program.

We hope the senator will also realize that compared to his city where the LGU is intervening, it could be much worse in places where the DepEd is single-handedly addressing the problem, the petitioners said. # nordis.net

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