Grade 6 is a wasted year!
- Boo Chanco () - June 16, 2004 - 12:00am
That’s right. Grade 6 is a wasted year, two major studies seem to indicate. A 1976 study called Survey of Outcomes of Elementary Education (SOUTELE) found out that Grade 6 pupils were not performing much more than Grade 5 pupils on the same tests. It concluded that not much learning was taking place in Grade 6. It even got worse with time.

Another study conducted in 2003, Project ALCEMS, sort of validated the 27-year-old study and found things were even worse. Not only did it confirm Grade 5 pupils showed more competence than Grade 6. In fact, Grade 6 pupils were losing not only Grade 6 but also Grade 5 competencies. In other words, nabo-bobo sila sa Grade 6.

Dr. Abraham Felipe, a noted authority in education, brought the two studies to my attention. Dr. Felipe wrote me to comment on our column that wondered if the additional bridge year would matter. We said something to the effect that our pupils may have wasted six years of bad schooling in our public schools and that cannot be corrected in one year.

Dr. Felipe wrote "it is really not that bad. It is not all six years of it. It is the 6th grade that is the problem. Research has shown that Grade 5 pupils are competent to do Grade 6 work. Not only that. They are more competent to do Grade 6 work than the Grade 6 pupils themselves." The problem, however is more complex and our educators have not been able to figure it out.

"And here is the paradox," Dr. Felipe wrote, "Grade 6 pupils are not only less competent than Grade 5 in doing Grade 6 work, but they are less competent in doing even work for Grade 4 and Grade 5. They were these poorly prepared Grade 6 pupils who took the HSRT. I expected many of them not to make the mark. I didn’t know only 0.50 percent (one half of one per cent) made it."

From a layman reading the abstract of the last study, I can only conclude that our pupils are wasting their time in Grade 6. Based on the findings of the study alone, not only do we not need a Grade 7, but maybe we can promote the Grade 5 pupils to high school. Of course, it is not as simple as that. But the two studies made it clear that something very wrong is happening in Grade 6.

As Dr. Felipe wrote in the abstract of the report, "the unavoidable conclusion was that not much learning was taking place in Grade 6. The query on budget inevitably followed – were we just wasting the huge budget allocated for Grade 6 children?" What else can anyone conclude when two studies, done 27 years apart, found out the same thing: Not only did Grade 6 have less Level 5 competencies, but Grade 5 had more Level 6 competencies that in Grade 6 one knows more than in Grade 5 seems to be a myth. Reality is the opposite."

One thing is sure now: Grade 6 is not what we expect it or thought it to be. There is the obvious need to conserve the gains of Grade 5 and the need to shore up Grade 6. Is Grade 7 the way to go? Or maybe just improve Grade 6? The Bridge plan is probably a good remedial or stopgap measure, but I wonder if they considered the implications of these two studies and explored the less expensive (to government and to parents) option of shoring up Grade 6.

As the summary of Dr. Felipe observed, "it appears that Grade 5 pupils could learn competencies intended for higher grade levels. Have we been setting curricular standards that are very low? Are Filipino schoolchildren developmentally ready to learn competencies that are only being reserved by curriculum makers for higher grades? In other words, does the present curriculum delay intellectual and academic development? Does it follow a pace of learning that is too slow?"

The next question is, are we getting enough bang from every taxpayer peso spent in education? It is becoming obvious that educational reforms worth billions and billions, designed with meticulous professional care, had not made a positive difference in so far as Grade 6 is concerned during the past 27 years.

It could be, as Dr. Felipe also noted, that student performance worsened unnoticed after 1976 in spite of large-scale educational interventions through World Bank and other foreign assisted projects (such as massive teacher training, curriculum changes, increasing teacher-to-pupil ratio, etc.). Did the World Bank monitor how the loan to the education sector was used? Was it used effectively? Or did it just make bureaucrats at DepEd rich?

I agree with Dr. Felipe in pointing out that the more serious implication of this seeming failure in the system has to do with the larger issue of development. "Education, including basic education, is viewed as a major tool for development. If the tool was defective, development must have been diminished. A defective system of basic education would not be able to perform the function for which it was designed. It would impair higher education and the correlated efforts to improve the lot of Filipinos. It would reduce the quality of human resources for local production and services, as well as for competition in the global job market. Grade 6 is no longer worth its value in the market."

No wonder the Chairman of CHED has claimed that nine out of every ten college freshmen do not possess the required competencies for college. Maybe the problematic Grade 6, which DepEd must still acknowledge, has something to do with it.
E-Mail From Turkey
Ruffa Gutierrez isn’t the only Filipino living in Turkey. One of my friends who works for a multinational bank had been assigned to Turkey for some years now. He e-mailed me this comment.

You are right on the spot on your comments about the sad state of our educational system. Your column on how hopeless and greedy our politicians are that they have forgotten that they are serving the people and their country and should do things to move the country forward instead of not only blocking our progress but pulling the country down. It is really very sad to see our country go deeper in the mire.

I really enjoy reading your articles and usually agree with your views and even your jokes. Today’s joke was really funny. By the way, you should come and visit Turkey in one of your trips. I have been visiting this country on business since the 80s and have seen it progress. I have always thought, out of being nationalistic, that the Philippines was ahead of Turkey but sad to say they are much better as a nation than our country.

I just met the Filipina wife of one of our Pakistani trainees today. I was shocked to learn from her that there are at least 3,000 Filipinos in Karachi alone and many are domestic helps. I couldn’t ask her in front of her husband what has come of our country when even Pakistan hires Filipinas now as maids. How much lower can our national pride sink!!??? I am not sure how accurate her numbers are but the mere fact that we have Filipinas going to Pakistan is just incredible.

Best wishes...

College letterman

Now, here’s Dr. Ernie.

One woman was bragging to her next-door neighbor about her son, a college student. "Why, our son is so brilliant, every time we get a letter from him we have to go to the dictionary."

"You’re lucky, "the neighbor said. "Every time we get a letter from ours, we have to go to the bank!"

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is

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